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EU looks to tighten powers to curb money laundering

By Philip Smith

High level financial crime might no longer be tackled at national level

The European Union is reportedly preparing to tighten rules to counter money laundering.

The last reforms, enacted a year ago, are now deemed inadequate. Last year of one of the largest ever money-laundering scandals occurred. Suspicious payments involving some €200bn (£173bn, $222bn) were made between 2007 and 2015 through Danske Bank’s tiny Estonian branch.

EU finance ministers debated the issue this month. Now, a draft EU document has asked the EU Commission to assess problems with current legislation and to present proposals to address them.

The Commission will consider the transfer of money-laundering supervisory powers to an EU agency and propose a mechanism to coordinate national investigators.

Financial crime is mostly dealt with at member state level. Even though it often crosses borders, there is concern that co-operation between states is inadequate.

The European Central Bank and the EU Parliament have said that a body with EU-wide oversight powers could address shortcomings. However, many governments have been reluctant to make changes, fearing they would be forced to share sensitive information.

The draft document calls for a closer alignment of rules to reduce states’ discretionary powers in applying them.

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