Anti-money laundering

Transparency International EU (TI EU) provides policy analysis and recommendations. We advocate for robust anti-money laundering rules at EU level and better implementation at national level. Our current priorities include:

Anti-money laundering & Beneficial ownership transparency

Since 2013, Transparency International EU has been closely monitoring EU legislative processes related to ‘beneficial ownership transparency’. A beneficial owner is the person who ultimately owns, controls, or benefits from a company.

We successfully advocated for the adoption of public registers of beneficial owners for companies and trusts as part of the new EU legislation enacted in 2018 (thereafter 2018 Directive) and expected to be transposed in national legislations in January 2020. TI EU is currently monitoring effective transposition and implementation by Member States as well as the discussions at EU level around the foreseen revision of EU anti-money laundering rules and the proposal to turn the 2018 Directive into a regulation. Our most recent research on beneficial ownership transparency standards is summarised in our report ‘Under the Shell: Ending Money Laundering in Europe‘, published in April 2017.

EU anti-money laundering

The EU has come a long way in fighting money laundering and now has among the most advanced anti-money laundering rules in the world. In practice, however, the current framework is poorly implemented. Recent money laundering scandals have shown that the EU remains an attractive destination for illicit funds and how indispensable European banks and other intermediaries are in helping – either knowingly or negligently – design and run dodgy schemes.

TI EU is advocating for the EU to get its house in order and tackle money laundering facilitated by European banks and other professionals. In particular, we believe the EU must create the a new EU supervisory body with sufficient resources, governance and power to conduct independent investigations and sanction non-compliant firms or Member States.

Asset recovery

In recent years, scandals involving misappropriation of public funds and money-laundering by foreign politicians, business magnates and their family members have laid bare the role of the EU as an attractive destination for their ill-gotten gains and public money stolen from third countries. This stolen wealth ends up in bank accounts, luxury goods, or high-end property across Europe.

However, despite notorious cases of individuals laundering money in Europe making the headlines, the EU performs poorly when it comes to confiscating and returning these looted assets. It is estimated that within the EU only 2.2% of criminal proceeds are seized, and an even smaller percentage (1.1%) are confiscated. Very little is returned to victim populations.

At TI EU, we focus in particular on the recovery of the proceeds of grand corruption, the massive embezzlement of public funds by high-level officials – such as Teodorin Obiang from Equatorial Guinea, Gulnara Karimova from Uzbekistan. To strengthen EU policy in this area, we advocate for new instruments to facilitate the confiscation of stolen assets, as well as establishing principles for their responsible repatriation as part of the upcoming revision of the 2014 Directive on asset freezing and confiscation.

Golden visas

Following the 2008 financial crisis, new kinds of investor schemes have blossomed across Europe with the aim to offer fast-track residency or even citizenship to third-country nationals in return for investments in the national economy. Although, foreign investment in key economic sectors may be welcome, such programmes also offer an easy route for money launderers wishing to introduce substantial amounts of illicit cash to the market. Another characteristic of these schemes is that they essentially rely on their capacity to offer free access to the Schengen area. As such, the lack of transparency and checks over these schemes risks undermining EU core values and citizenship principles.

Transparency International EU is advocating for the phase out of risky golden visa schemes and in the meantime calls on the EU to adopt common integrity and transparency standards in the management of these schemes.