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Cecilia Malmström

European Commissioner responsible for Home Affairs

Confiscating assets: Hitting Criminals Where It Hurts

Press Conference

Brussels, 12 March 2012

Every year in Europe, hundreds of billions of euro go straight into the pockets of criminal gangs and the mafia.

This means that, every day, despite the efforts put in place at national level, European citizens are deprived of tax money which could have been invested in public services such as health care or schools, or could have been returned to people through tax cuts.

Organised crime is all about getting money, money and more money - that can be turned into gold, houses, yachts, racing horses, luxury furniture, fancy cars, motorbikes and any sort of assets as you have seen in the video. And a large share of this money is also used to finance new criminal activities in order to gain more dirty money, creating an evil spiral that we have to try and stop.

Putting criminals in jail is only one part of this job. The other crucial work is making sure that crime does not pay - and ensuring that we empty criminals' pockets, and get their money back in to the legal economy where it belongs. In times of crisis this is even more crucial!

This is why, today, I am presenting a legislative proposal that will make it easier for national authorities to confiscate the profits that criminals make from serious and organised crime.

The proposal will simplify existing rules and fill important gaps which are being exploited by organised crime groups.

  • It will lay down clearer and more efficient rules for confiscating assets not directly linked to a specific crime, but which clearly result from similar criminal activities by the convicted person.

  • It will strengthen the rules on the confiscation of assets transferred from the suspect to a third party. These provisions will mitigate the effects of the increasingly widespread practice by suspects or accused person of transferring property to friends or relatives with a view to avoiding confiscation.

  • It will allow for the confiscation of assets where a criminal conviction is not possible because the suspect is dead, permanently ill or has fled.

  • It will ensure that prosecutors can temporarily freeze assets that risk disappearing if no action is taken, subject to confirmation by a court. The use of these precautionary freezing powers in urgent cases, prior to seeking a court order or pending its request, will stop assets getting out of reach and ensure that they remain available for confiscation.

  • It will allow the police and prosecutors to continue investigations on the assets of a convicted person when confiscation was ordered, but insufficient assets were confiscated. This provision will prevent assets successfully hidden by criminals from resurfacing years later and will stop criminals from ultimately enjoying their ill-gotten gains.

  • The proposal will also require Member States to manage frozen assets so that they do not lose economic value and it will ensure that actions taken to freeze and confiscate assets are balanced by strong measures protecting fundamental rights.

The aim of this proposal is very simple: make it easier for the police to hit mafia groups where it really hurts – by going after their profits.

The new rules will better equip national authorities by sharpening and improving the tools at their disposal and will make it easier to use these tools across borders, to make sure that there is no safe haven for organised crime.

This will weaken the economic power of criminal groups; will protect the legal economy by reducing criminal infiltration and will enhance EU citizens' security.

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