The Council of Europe wants tougher powers introduced for fighting organised crime, which it believes could be making more than a 100 billion euros a year in the European Union.
With authorities believed to be confiscating only a small fraction of the proceeds of European crime, the Council of Europe wants to boost the powers of investigators. It is encouraging member states to inter-connect their national bank registries, toughen laws regarding frozen assets, introduce EU-wide restrictions on cash payments and improve the exchange of information between financial intelligence experts.
The EU has strengthened its anti-money laundering legal framework in recent years. But the Council of Europe wants investigators to work more closely together.
In a statement, the Council said: “Estimations consider that the proceeds of organised crimes within the EU have reached 110 billion euros a year and that confiscation rates remain very low. Financial investigations are therefore of utmost importance for the European Union in preventing and combatting organised crime and terrorism.’’
The thrust of EU anti-money laundering and counter-terrorist financing measures of late appears to be centred on the spirit of collaboration. This is the latest push from the Council of Europe for stronger powers to aid investigations. To improve the money-laundering conviction rates –and, therefore, the rates for confiscation and asset recovery - investigations certainly need to be more effective.
Incorporating data into enquiries that is from multiple sources and from across the public and private sectors - including the financial sector, as well as law enforcement, intelligence and other authorities - will mean that financial crimes can be spotted and investigations developed more efficiently. Refining communications while introducing tougher laws on frozen assets and consistent cash payment limits will require the co-operation of all the various organisations in the different stages of the fight against organised crime.
Such measures could go a long way to addressing the structural pitfalls and fragmentation that exist in this area and would ensure that organised crime can be targeted consistently at several different levels.