EU introduces 'follow the money' rules to crack down on terrorism

13 Feb 19

The European Union has introduced new rules to fight financial criminals and terrorist financing by giving national law authorities access to bank accounts.

The rules will grant law enforcement and the EU law enforcement agency, Europol, quick access to bank account information contained at national banks in cases of crime or terrorism.

Member states have 24 hours to adopt the rules into national legislation, which was agreed by the European Parliament and Council yesterday.

“If you want to catch criminals and terrorists, you need to be able to follow their money,” said commissioner for migration, home affairs and citizenship Dimitris Avramopoulos.

The rules “will ensure swift access to financial information and smoother cooperation across Europe, so that no criminal or suspect can slip under the radar any longer or get away with dirty money”, he added.

Law enforcement’s access to information is currently “too slow” and “cumbersome” to prevent criminals, who are able to transfer money between financial institutions, in different countries, in “a matter of minutes”, the commission said.

The current rules under the EU’s anti-money-laundering framework do not set out the precise conditions under which national authorities can use financial information to fight criminal offences. The new rules fill this gap.

They also set out to improve cooperation between national authorities and EU law enforcement agencies.

While granting quick access to financial information, the rules set out how to protect the rights of individuals, such as their personal data.

Commissioner for justice, consumers and gender equality Věra Jourová said the rules would allow the union to “crack down faster and more effectively on money laundering”.

She said: “We need to be vigilant towards suspicious transfers of money, which can be one of the signals that a terrorist attack is being prepared. Such information needs to be relayed fast, and this can only be done if we have a strong network."

The commission highlighted that criminal groups are operating more and more across borders, with their assets located both within and outside the EU.

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