EU tightens money laundering controls

EU tightens

The European Commission is proposing a raft of measures – from closer monitoring of bitcoin and cash transactions to the creation of national payment account registers – as part of an action plan to strengthen the fight against terrorist financing.

Cutting off the supply of funds to illicit organisations has jumped up the political agenda following a surge in terrorist atrocities across the European Union. 

Presenting the new plans to update EU rules to tackle emerging threats to national security, vice president Valdis Dombrovskis, says: “We want to improve the oversight of the many financial means used by terrorists, from cash and cultural artefacts to virtual currencies and anonymous pre-paid cards, while avoiding unnecessary obstacles to the functioning of payments and financial markets for ordinary, law-abiding citizens.”

In particular, the Fourth Anti-Money Laundering Directive, introduced just last year, will be the subject of a number of amendments to be rushed through by the summer. 

Alongside a tightening of checks on financial flows from countries with more lax controls, the EC is also proposing to widen the scope of information accessible by national and international ‘Financial Intelligence Units’. This will entail the creation of centralised national bank and payment account registers or central data retrieval systems in all Member States to provide intelligence agencies with easier and faster access to information on the holders of bank and payment accounts.

Virtual currencies and pre-paid cards are also in the sight-lines. Under the new regime, bitcoin exchanges will have to comply with tougher money laundering regulations, applying customer due diligence checking and ending the anonymity associated with such exchanges. The Commission also proposes to lower thresholds for identification and widening customer verification requirements for issuers of pre-paid cards.

The use of cash is also under scrutiny. Under a legislative proposal on illicit cash movements, the Commission intends to extend the scope of the existing regulation to include cash shipped by freight or post and to allow authorities to act upon lower amounts of cash where there are suspicions of illicit activity.

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