The European Commission released on Thursday a bold action plan to ensure a unified and comprehensive EU-wide policy to prevent money laundering and terrorist financing. In addition, it launched a public consultation on this matter, open until July 29th 2020. This broad action plan comprises six steps:
1. The efficient implementation of the existing rules;
2. A single regulatory framework at EU level;
3. A centralized surveillance system at EU level;
4. A support and cooperation mechanism for the Financial Intelligence Units (FIU – in Romania, ONPCSB for this role);
5. Increased access to information for the application of white collar crime legislation;
6. A stronger Union in the global context, fully aligned with the standards established by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF).
All these elements have been addressed by EU bodies since July 2019, but the steps towards tighter money laundering policies have been driven by successive financial scandals, such as Danske Bank, which have shaken the European internal market. At the same time, they revealed certain systemic vulnerabilities at EU level, caused by factors such as: poor implementation of Union rules (for example, in Romania, the law to prevent and combat money laundering and terrorist financing, in force since July 2019, has already sparked many discussions among the various categories of reporting entities, and the transposition of the Fifth Anti-Money Laundering Directive is still in the draft stage, although the transposition deadline was January 10th 2020); inefficient supervision at Member State level; difficult cooperation between different national authorities.
“EU authorities also considered the idea that the European Banking Authority (EBA), which oversees national anti-money laundering systems in the banking area, could have this role as a central supervisory body. However, I share the opinion that it would be more effective if the new supervisory body was distinct from the EBA and thus benefit from a high degree of independence, as well as from a flexible management structure“, states Mihai Mareș, founding partner of MAREȘ & MAREȘ.
”Therefore, in this context, I fully agree with the experts stating that the set-up of a central EU anti-money laundering body is not only timely, but also imperative in these times – especially given that fragmented surveillance, limited to Member States, has proven insufficient and that the criminal world can take advantage of these loopholes. However, in order to avoid the risk that this new body is perceived only as a simple bureaucratic exercise, which would affect its credibility and efficiency, all the six steps described above should be implemented in a synergistic manner and all member states should proactively get involved in this project“, explains Mihai Mareș.