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IP/11/464

Brussels, 12 April 2011

Commission report on 'Asset Recovery Offices': an important tool to go after criminals' money

The Commission adopted today a report on the functioning of 'Asset Recovery Offices' set up by Member States to fight organised crime. By identifying illegally acquired assets on their national territory and by facilitating the exchange of relevant information at European level, these Offices help depriving criminals from their criminal profits. This year the Commission will propose further measures to enable even faster tracing of assets derived from crime across the EU.

"As criminal groups operate without borders and increasingly acquire assets in other Member States than their own, we must step up our efforts within the EU to hurt them where it hurts the most, by going after their money. To be able to confiscate and recover criminal profits, we need an efficient EU wide cooperation for tracing and identifying criminal assets. The Asset Recovery Offices in Member States are important tools in that work. At the same time, the report shows that we still have a lot of work to do in order to get hold of the very substantial amounts that are acquired through illegal activities within the EU. I intend to take the next step in this important work later this year, by proposing measures to improve the capacity of Member States' authorities to freeze, seize and re-use illicitly acquired assets and other crime related property. This is part of the bigger European security policy, as outlined in the Internal Security Strategy from last year", said Cecilia Malmström, Commissioner for Home Affairs.

While a few Member States have not yet established an office, the cooperation between the existing members of the network is generally positive, concludes the Commission report. Despite differences in the Offices' structure, powers and access to information, the cross-border requests for asset tracing have increased and information is usually provided within the given time limits.

However, the Asset Recovery Offices (AROs) are facing a number of common challenges, in particular regarding their capacity to access relevant financial information.

By taking additional measures to equip AROs with the necessary resources, powers and training, Member States would enhance cooperation at EU level, enabling an even faster EU-wide tracing of assets derived from crime.

Background

Asset Recovery Offices aim to facilitate cooperation between Member States on the tracing and identification of proceeds of crime and other property belonging to criminals across the EU. Council Decision 2007/845/JHA obliges Member States to set up national central contact points to exchange information and best practices.

On 20 November 2008 the Commission adopted the Communication "Proceeds of organised crime – ensuring that crime does not pay" (IP/08/1748). It proposes ten strategic priorities on confiscation and asset recovery and emphasises the importance of enhancing co-operation among Member States in tracing assets.

In 2009, the Commission launched an informal EU Asset Recovery Offices (ARO) Platform in order to further enhance their cooperation and coordination at EU level.

Next steps

On 22 November 2010 the Commission adopted an "EU Internal Security Strategy in Action" (IP/10/1535 and MEMO/10/598). Confiscation has been given strategic priority within the EU as a way of fighting organised crime. As part of a comprehensive package to protect the economy, the Commission will propose to revise the existing EU legal framework on confiscation and asset recovery.

The future proposals will enhance the ability of Member States to confiscate assets that have been transferred by investigated or convicted persons to third parties as well as assets which go beyond the direct proceeds of a crime (third party confiscation and extended confiscation). They will also ensure that courts are able to effectively enforce confiscation orders in the European Union, confiscate criminal and criminally tainted assets and fully recover the corresponding values.

This package may also offer an opportunity to introduce new provisions to strengthen the powers of AROs and their capacity to access information. The Communication on the Internal Security Strategy sets the ambitious goal of having, by 2014, effective Asset Recovery Offices across the Union, equipped with all the necessary resources, powers and training.

For more information

Homepage of Cecilia Malmström, Commissioner for Home Affairs:

http://ec.europa.eu/commission_2010-2014/malmstrom/welcome/default_en.htm

Homepage of DG Home Affairs:

http://ec.europa.eu/dgs/home-affairs/index_en.htm


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