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Brussels, 22 April 2004

European Commission seeks to strengthen the fight against organised financial crime

The European Commission has today adopted a communication to strengthen the fight against organised financial crime throughout the EU. The communication contains an overview of actions already taken and lists number of actions that will make it more difficult for criminals to spend the proceeds of crime without detection. Illicit gain can be undermined by enhancing the ability of law enforcement services to identify, freeze and confiscate criminal proceeds. Greater use of financial investigative techniques to trace money trails associated with crime is also an important tool.

Commissioner António Vitorino in charge of Justice and Home Affairs said: "Organised financial crime undermines legitimate economic actors and strengthens the shadow economy thus diminishing economic growth and public resources. The fight against this type of crime must therefore be a core priority of the EU over the coming years." Commissioner Frits Bolkestein in charge of Internal Market added: "Financial crime is a globalised industry. It does not stop at borders and if there are weak links, criminals will exploit them. Through the Financial Services Action Plan, we are strengthening Europe's regulatory defences against those who try to rip off investors. But we also need an effective European and international crackdown, including further legislation where necessary, to stop ill-gotten gains from organised crime going through an ever more sophisticated financial system".

Develop more focused action against money laundering

A particular focus of the European Commission's communication is the prevention and repression of money laundering against the background that the methods to launder the proceeds of crime or otherwise conceal criminal activity are becoming more and more sophisticated. It addresses the need for effective mechanisms to identify and confiscate criminal proceeds and the need for enhanced co-operation between public and private entities to help ensure a more effective fight against this type of crime.

Improve financial transparency

The Communication also makes the case for improved financial transparency - a key element to reduce the opportunities to carry out organised financial crime. The need to develop, at national and EU levels, appropriate investigative techniques such as financial investigation, is also key in this respect. This would facilitate the gathering of intelligence regarding the behaviour of suspects and the identification and seizure of criminal assets.

Attacking the foundations

The importance of the fight against organised financial crime goes beyond the specific crime itself since, if successful, it attacks the very foundations of organised crime networks, namely the maximisation of profit by illicit means. Depriving organised criminals of the ability to launder money or to finance criminal activity and enhancing the ability of law enforcement services to identify, freeze and confiscate criminal proceeds, will significantly impede the motivation and capacity of crime groups. Accordingly, there is a growing need to ensure that adequate law enforcement resource with appropriate skills and training are made available to tackle organised financial crime throughout the EU.

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