Tue. Jul 16th, 2024

21 June 2021

Imagine you just took out cash from a bank machine – 100 euros. And a thief steals your wallet. The police catch him. But the money is gone. The police give you a one euro coin.

That’s all they managed to get back from the thief.

That’s what happens in Europe with the proceeds of organised crime, on a scale a hundred billion times greater.

Organised crime is one of the biggest threats facing our society, as Europol’s recent SOCTA report shows. An increasingly professional threat– set up like multinational businesses with complex supply chains – and increasingly profitable: making at least an estimated 139 billion euro in 2019 alone.

At the moment only 1 per cent of these proceeds are confiscated.

The score is now criminals: 99. Society: 1.

I want to turn that around with new asset recovery rules.

We must follow the money. That’s at the core of my new strategy to fight organised crime I Iaunched in April this year.

First of all to break the power of organised crime.

Criminals use their criminal gains to buy prestige. To buy fancy houses, fast cars, expensive boats and flashy helicopters.

They use that money to buy respectability. Infiltrate the legal economy. 80 per of organised crime groups hide behind legal businesses.

Criminals invest in construction companies, restaurants and hotels, wholesale and retail trade of jewellery and diamonds, but also food, flowers and oil, to launder the proceeds of their crimes on an unprecedented scale. Professional money launderers use a parallel underground financial system to keep criminal payments out of sight, often using crypto currencies.

Criminals use their criminal profits to buy weapons to commit increasingly violent crimes. 60 % of criminals use violence to intimidate, extort and kill.

Criminals use criminal proceeds to buy power.60 per cent of criminal groups engage in corruption, ranging from slipping an official a couple of banknotes to look the other way, to multi-million euro pay offs. Undermining society and the rule of law.

I want to take that money from the criminals, and give it back to victims and to society. Crime must not pay. That’s especially true in covid times.

Europe will be spending a total of 750 billion euro on recovery after covid in the next five years. That’s about what criminals in Europe make in criminal proceeds in the same five years.

It’s money we need for medicine, vaccines, hospitals. To create jobs and growth.

Supported by Europol and Eurojust, police in Europe are already confiscating assets for example in a drug bustvat fraud, and ponzi scheme.

But we must do more.

I aim to promote financial investigations; these must become part of any investigation into organised crime – supported by Europol’s European Financial and Economic Crime Centre.

And we must freeze and confiscate more criminal money.

In particular, I am considering:

  • Urgent freezing powers to stop criminals moving assets across borders.
  • Confiscating criminal assets even if not directly linked to the specific crime.
  • Confiscating assets without a final conviction, in certain circumstances – for example, when the criminal is dead, has escaped, or is unknown.
  • Extending asset recovery to more kinds of crimes. Gun smuggling, money laundering or environmental crimes: there are now no rules for confiscating profits from these crimes.
  • Ensuring that frozen criminal assets do not lose value: criminal proceedings can take years, while cars lose their value and houses crumble.
  • Better statistics to better monitor real progress

And I want better rules to compensate victims. Remember that example of the thief at the start of this blog? In reality you’d be lucky even to get that one euro back.

Our asset recovery rules will fully respect fundamental rights, in particular the presumption of innocence and the right to property.

We need a European approach to confiscate assets.

In our integrated financial markets, money can move across borders very quickly – also dirty money. Almost 70 % of criminal networks are active in more than three countries. Criminals use illegal money brokers and bankers to launder their proceeds across Europe and beyond.

To shape our asset recover policy, I need your help.

In this public consultation I am asking for advice. Law enforcement officers, judges, prosecutors, but also NGOs and people from civil society.

I want to know from you:

  • What are the challenges that prevent an effective recovery and confiscation across borders?
  • What more must we do to deprive criminals of their illegal gains?

Please answer the questionnaire.

Source: https://ec.europa.eu/commission/commissioners/2019-2024/johansson/blog/crime-must-not-pay-have-your-say_en

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