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Brussels, 13 July 1998

Money laundering: situation in the Member States

In accordance with the request of the European Parliament, the European Commission's latest report on the application of the EU Directive on the prevention of money laundering (91/308/EEC) features detailed information concerning Member States efforts to combat money laundering, including measures above and beyond what is required under the terms of the Directive (see also IP/98/654).

  • A.  Criminal activities covered by Member States' anti-money laundering legislation

The current Directive requires Member States to implement measures to counter the laundering of the proceeds of drug trafficking, but because the Directive is based on the EU Treaty, it cannot oblige Member States to amend their criminal legislation. In practice, however, all Member States have made laundering of the proceeds of drug trafficking a criminal offence and most have extended the definition of money laundering to cover laundering the proceeds of many other serious crimes.


The Penal Code (Article 505) covers the laundering of the proceeds of all crimes.

The specific anti-money laundering legislation (Law of 11-1-1993, as amended) covers the laundering of proceeds linked to crimes involving: terrorism, organised criminality, drugs trafficking, illicit trafficking in arms and other goods, trafficking in clandestine labour, trafficking in human beings, prostitution, illegal use of hormones in animals, trafficking in human organs or tissues, fraud prejudicing the financial interests of the EU, serious and organised tax fraud, corruption of public officials, investment irregularities, swindling, hostage-taking, theft or extortion with violence and threats and fraudulent bankruptcy.


The Danish Money Laundering Act refers to assets originating from violation of the Danish Criminal Code (i.e. all crimes). However, "money laundering" is not a separate offence under Danish law but is dealt with under two "receiving" sections of the Criminal Code - S 191(a), which makes it an offence to receive profit from a drug offence under S 191, and S 284, which creates an offence of accepting profits or helping others to enjoy profits from theft, misappropriation of objects found, embezzlement, fraud, computer fraud, breach of trust, extortion, fraud against creditors, smuggling of a particularly serious nature and robbery.


Money laundering is a criminal offence pursuant to Section 261 of the Criminal Code (money laundering; disguising of illegal assets). The money laundering predicate offences are as follows:

  •  all major crimes (Verbrechen), i.e. all offences carrying a minimum of one year's imprisonment, e.g. serious forms of trafficking in people, theft and receiving as well as illegal trade in drugs and arms
  •  all less serious crime (Vergehen) under Section 29, subsection 1, first sentence No 1 of the Narcotics Act ( Betäubungsmittelgesetz) or Section 29, subsection 1 of the Commodities Control Act (Grundstoffüberwachungsgesetz), in particular illegal trade in narcotics and precursors (a 'Vergehen' is an offence carrying a minimum sentence of less than one year's imprisonment or a fine)
  •  certain 'Vergehen' involving property, fraud, document and corruption offences committed on a commercial basis by a member of a gang formed for recurrent commission of such offences (e.g. commercial and gang fraud)
  •  all Vergehen committed by a member of a criminal association within the meaning of Section 129 of the Criminal Code (e.g. extortion, procuring and illegal gaming).

On 16 January 1998 the Bundestag passed the draft law to improve the fight against organised crime. This will extend considerably the catalogue of predicate offences, especially in the field of organised crime.


The Greek Money Laundering Law covers trafficking in drugs and weapons, robbery, blackmail, kidnapping, serious larceny, embezzlement or fraud, illegal trade in antiquities, theft of cargo of a vessel, illegal trade in human tissue and organs, smuggling, nuclear crime, prostitution, illegal gambling.


The Penal Code article 301 covers money laundering under the section on receiving and similar offences. It refers to all serious crime (any crime carrying a prison sentence in excess of 3 years). The offence is considered to be aggravated when it relates to a drugs trafficking offence.

The Spanish Money Laundering Law (of 23-12-1993) has as its objective to combat the laundering of the proceeds of organised crime, terrorism and drugs trafficking.


Law No 96-392 of 13-5-1996 amending the Penal Code extended the offence of money laundering to the proceeds of all crimes ("crimes" or "délits").


The Criminal Justice Act 1994 criminalises the laundering of the proceeds of "drug trafficking or other criminal activity".


Law 328/1993 modified articles 648bis and ter of the Criminal Code to criminalise the laundering of the proceeds of all intentional criminal activities ("tutti i delitti non colposi").


Current legislation only covers offences linked to drug-related money laundering.

However, a draft law currently before the Luxembourg Parliament would extend the range of predicate offences to any crime (carrying a penalty of more than 5 years imprisonment), to offences ("délits") involving organised crime and to certain offences involving minors, prostitution, corruption of young people and arms and munitions.


The definition of the crime of receiving in the Criminal Code (Articles 416 - 417bis) covers the proceeds of any serious offence ("misdrijf").


The Austrian Penal Code (Articles 165 and 278a) criminalises the laundering of all assets derived from serious crime, namely all crimes ("Verbrechen") which, under Article 17(1) of the Criminal Code, carry a sentence of 3 years imprisonment.


Decree Law 15/93 made drug and precursor trafficking a criminal offence and criminalised money laundering. Decree Law 313/93 transposed the money laundering directive into Portuguese law and Decree Law 325/95 extended the range of predicate offences to terrorism, arms trafficking, extortion, kidnapping, prostitution, corruption and various serious economic and financial crimes.


The money laundering relevant offence in the Finnish Penal Code (the term "money laundering" is not used) covers the proceeds of all offences.


It is an offence to launder the proceeds of serious crime. Chapter 9 of the Swedish Penal Code, on receiving, states that it is an offence to intentionally or by negligence launder the proceeds of any serious criminal offence carrying a penalty of imprisonment of more that 6 months. Complicity in money laundering is also criminalised. The term "money laundering" is not, however, used in the Penal Code.

United Kingdom

There is no general definition of the term "money laundering" in the primary legislation. In effect it is an offence to launder the proceeds of serious crime. This would include drug trafficking, terrorism, theft and fraud, robbery, forgery and counterfeiting, illegal deposit taking, blackmail and extortion (essentially any conduct which would constitute an "indictable offence" in the UK).

  • B.  Non-financial sector activities covered by the Member States' anti-money laundering legislation

The current Directive applies to credit and financial institutions, but many Member States already apply their anti-money laundering legislation to professions and activities beyond the financial sector, or have draft legislation pending that would do so.

Belgium - A draft law would extend coverage to notaries, bailiffs ('huissiers de justice'), accountants and auditors, estate agents, casinos and security firms that transport money

Denmark - Casinos

Germany - Casinos, auctioneers, other businesses not already subject to the obligation to cooperate under the money laundering law and any person who administers another person's assets against payment

Greece - Casinos

Spain  - Casinos, real-estate management companies, estate agents, jewellers, antique dealers, companies trading in coins and stamps

France - All persons who professionally advise upon, execute or control operations involving capital movements are obliged to notify the authorities of any transactions which they know to be related to money laundering. Certain limits are also placed on cash transactions (such as car purchases).

Ireland - Government has announced its intention to cover solicitors, auctioneers, estate agents and accountants

Italy - Transactions over LIT 20 million must be carried out through a financial intermediary. New legislation adopted in 1997 provides for an accelerated procedure whereby non-financial activities can be brought under the anti-money laundering legislation.

Luxembourg - A draft law would extend coverage to casinos, games of chance, auditors and notaries.

Netherlands - Casinos. Notaries have announced voluntary scheme to report very suspicious transactions indicating serious cases of money laundering. Lawyers and accountants already have a similar voluntary arrangement.

Austria - Casinos

Portugal  - Casinos, real estate agents (brokers and dealers), real estate management companies, companies organising gambling or lotteries, antique/art dealers, jewellers, aircraft, boat and car dealers

Finland - Draft legislation would cover casinos, betting offices and real estate agents

Sweden - Companies administering trusts

UK - The principal legislation covers all persons. The money laundering regulations cover all persons and institutions, including lawyers and accountants, when undertaking banking, investment or insurance-related business.

C.  Cooperation between Financial Intelligence Units

The Directive implies that Member States must designate an authority or authorities to receive reports of suspicious transactions. These bodies are sometimes referred to as Financial Intelligence Units or FIUs. However, in different Member States FIUs take different forms some are administrative/intermediary bodies while others are police or judicial authorities or a mixture:

  •  Intermediary body: Belgium, Finland (FSA), France, Greece, Italy, Netherlands, Spain
  •  Police authority: Austria, Finland (MLID), Germany, Ireland, Sweden, United Kingdom

- Judicial authority: Luxembourg, Portugal

- Mixed police/judicial authority: Denmark

As a result of the different legal nature of the FIUs, problems of cooperation and exchange of information can arise. Some of these problems can be overcome by bilateral cooperation agreements but certain Member States are prevented from concluding such agreements because their law provides that police services can only cooperate with other police services (using existing channels). Such obstacles to the free flow of information can hinder efforts to combat money laundering, and are due to be considered by the Commission in the context of revising the current Directive (see IP/98/ ). The existing possibilities for cooperation/exchange of information are as follows:

Bilateral agreements/direct exchange of information generally possible:

1. For intelligence purposes: Italy, Portugal, Sweden

  • 2. For intelligence purposes and for criminal investigation or prosecution purposes: Belgium, France, Netherlands, Spain, UK
  • Exchange of information limited:

Austria - No exchange with administrative units; no law enforcement information

Denmark, Germany, Luxembourg: No exchange with administrative units

Ireland - No exchange with administrative units and judicial authorities

Finland (FSA) - No exchange with police or judicial authorities; no law enforcement information

D.  Number of suspicious transaction reports

Member States

Ireland199 (part)378
Netherland (unusual)








+- 17000
United Kingdom15007131701612514148
  • E.  Prosecutions and convictions resulting from the reporting system

The report points out that the Directive has an important preventive role, by making it more difficult for 'dirty money' to enter the EU's financial system. That said, where suspicious transactions are reported, there needs to be an appropriate response from the criminal law system. For the moment, the report notes that although the numbers of prosecutions and convictions are increasing, the results appear to be limited, partly because of the difficulties identified above concerning cooperation between Financial Intelligence Units (see point C). Details of prosecutions and convictions resulting from the reporting system are as follows:

Belgium -  Cases transmitted to the Crown Prosecutor: 1994 117; 1995 149; 1996 321 and 1997 495. Since 1994 there have been convictions in 48 cases following reports from the Belgian FIU to the judicial authorities.

Denmark - Comprehensive statistics on prosecutions and convictions are not available, though it is known that there have been a number of convictions for drug money laundering (7 in 1994 and 5 in 1995). As regards the results of the reporting system, 35 reports have resulted in 26 cases (various offences) in which 49 persons have been convicted or have agreed to pay administrative fines. One person has been acquitted.

Germany - 16 persons were convicted in 1994, 15 in 1995 and 24 in 1996.

Greece - Of the 38 cases reported to the Committee set up under Law No 2331 of 24.8.1995, 13 cases have been sent to the Public Prosecutor.

Spain  - Suspicious transactions passed on to police or judicial authorities: 1995 19, 1996 165.

France - Dossiers passed to judicial authorities: 1994 22; 1995 30; 1996 47; 1997 75. As of end 96, there had been 34 definitive convictions (25 since 1993). However, this figure is not exhaustive, other cases being prosecuted under the heading of receiving ('recel').

Ireland - One conviction obtained to date.

Italy - Convictions for money laundering under Art 648 bis (money laundering) and Article 648ter (use of money, goods or assets of unlawful origin): 1993 - 72 and 1; 1994 58 and 4; 1995 62 and 3; 1996 116 and 9. Suspicious transaction reports have led to 85 penal proceedings being initiated, 16 for money laundering and 69 for other offences.

Luxembourg - Two domestic cases are currently pending

Netherlands - No precise statistics on money laundering prosecutions and convictions. Approx. 5000 "receiving" cases are investigated annually.

Austria - A formal accusation has been made in 13 proceedings. These have led to 3 convictions (1 in 1994 and 2 in 1995), one of which involved two persons; four trials ended in acquittal. In one of the proceedings which led to a conviction, another Member State was requested to take proceedings against other persons.

Portugal - The reports gave rise to 12 investigations in 1994, 49 in 1995 and 53 in 1996. Prosecutions were launched in 3 cases, involving 26 persons. One person was convicted in 1996.

Finland - Between 1994 and 1997, 119 suspicious transaction reports were transferred to pre-trial investigations, leading to 70 criminal cases. Of these cases, by end 1997 the Courts had passed judgement in 13. Proceedings were pending in 4. Charges were being considered in 4. 21 cases were dropped and pre-trial investigations were still continuing in 28.

Sweden  - A total of 66 reports were passed to the prosecution authorities for preliminary investigation in the period 1994 97. Over the same period there were 21 judgements.

UK - Between 1993 and 1996 there were 25 convictions for money laundering, of which 13 in 1996. Although only 1 prosecution for money laundering resulted from a suspicious transaction report there were over 200 known prosecutions for other offences in 1996 as a result of reports passed on to police or investigative authorities.

F.  International police and judicial cooperation

The report points out that to be effective, the EU's defences against money laundering must be complemented by efforts at the international level, in view of the global nature of the money laundering problem. All Member States are members of the Financial Action Task Force, the leading world anti-money laundering body, which groups 26 countries plus the European Commission and the Gulf Cooperation Council. The FATF established 40 Recommendations to counter money laundering in 1990, which were updated in 1996. These Recommendations cover measures in the fields of criminal justice and law enforcement, the financial system and its regulation and international cooperation which the FATF members have agreed to implement and which all countries are encouraged to adopt.

The first FATF Recommendation is that each country should ratify and implement fully the United Nations Convention against illicit traffic in narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances (Vienna Convention), which facilitates international cooperation in this area. The report notes all Member States have now ratified and implemented the Vienna Convention.

As for the complementary Council of Europe Convention on laundering, search, seizure and confiscation of the proceeds of crime (Strasbourg Convention), all Member States have signed it and all except Greece, Spain and Luxembourg have ratified and implemented it. Under the terms of the June 1997 Amsterdam European Council's Action Plan to combat organised crime, all Member States are due to ratify and apply the Strasbourg Convention before the end of 1998.

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