Brussels, 9th February 2004
Money laundering: Commission asks six Member States to apply the EU law they have agreed
The European Commission has decided to send formal requests to Italy, Portugal, Greece, Sweden, Luxembourg and France to implement the Second Anti-Money Laundering Directive (97/2001/EC, see IP/01/1608). None of these Member States has yet notified the Commission of their measures to write the Directive into national law. The Commission's requests will take the form of reasoned opinions, the second stage of infringement procedures under Article 226 of the Treaty. In the absence of a satisfactory response to the reasoned opinions, the Commission may decide to refer the Member States in question to the EU's Court of Justice.
The Second Anti-Money Laundering Directive was adopted on 4 December 2001 and the Member States agreed at that time that they would implement it in national law by 15 June 2003. Only Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands and Finland did so by that deadline. Ireland and Spain did so shortly afterwards. Following a letter of formal notice from the Commission, Austria and the UK have also notified the Commission of their implementation of the Directive and Belgium has published a new law to do so. Infringement procedures against Austria, the UK and Belgium have therefore now been closed.
The Directive extends the scope of the First Directive on money laundering (91/308/EEC). In particular, it commits Member States to combat laundering of the proceeds of a wide range of serious crime and extends the coverage of the First Directive (limited to the financial sector) to a series of non-financial activities and professions that are vulnerable to misuse by money launderers. Requirements as regards client identification, record keeping and reporting of suspicious transactions are therefore extended to external accountants and auditors, real estate agents, notaries, lawyers. Similar requirements apply to certain dealers in high value goods, such as precious stones and metals or works of art, and to auctioneers, whenever payment is made in cash and in an amount of €15 000 or more.
As long as even one Member State has not implemented the Directive, there will be a weak link in Europe's protection against the use of the financial system for the purpose of money laundering, including by those responsible for terrorism and organised crime.
According to the latest figures, released by the Commission in January (see IP/04/33), a total of 131 Directives (around 8.5% of Internal Market Directives) have still not been implemented into national law in every Member State, though the deadlines agreed by the Member States themselves when they adopted the Directives have passed.