European Parliament Votes to Toughen Anti-Money Laundering Rules

European Parliament Votes to Toughen Anti-Money Laundering Rules

 The ultimate owners of companies and trusts would have to be listed in public registers in EU countries under draft anti-money laundering rules voted by the European Parliament.

“The public registers will make life more difficult for criminals trying to hide their money. Our economy currently loses huge amounts to tax evasion,” said Civil Liberties Committee Rapporteur Judith Sargentini (Greens/EFA, NL). “Today is a good day for law-abiding citizens, but a lousy day for criminals,” added Economic and Monetary Affairs Committee Rapporteur Krišjānis Kariņš (EPP, LV).

Under the anti-money laundering directive (AMLD), as amended by the vote, a public central register in each EU country would list information on the ultimate beneficial owners of all sorts of legal arrangements, including companies, foundations, holdings and trusts.

These registers would be interconnected across the EU and would be “publicly available following prior identification of the person wishing to access the information through basic online registration.” Several provisions in the amended AMLD are intended to protect data privacy and to ensure that only the minimum information necessary is put in the register.

The proposed rules would require banks, financial institutions, auditors, lawyers, accountants, tax advisors, and real estate agents, among others, to be more vigilant about suspicious transactions made by their clients. Casinos are included in the scope of the draft rules, but other gambling services posing a low risk may be excluded by member states.

Parliament also voted on a Transfer of Funds Regulation, which aims to improve the traceability of payers and payees and their assets.

The rules on “politically-exposed persons,” i.e., people at a higher than usual risk of corruption due to the political positions they hold, are extended to “domestic” politically-exposed persons. These people are those who are or have been “entrusted by the member state with prominent public functions,” such as heads of state, members of government, supreme court judges, and members of parliaments.

The European Parliament voted its first reading of the draft legislation, in order to consolidate the work done so far and hand it over to the next Parliament. Parliament members to be elected in May can decide not to start from scratch, but instead build on work done during the current term.

The legislative resolution on the AMLD was passed by 643 votes to 30 with 12 abstentions and the legislative resolution on transfer of funds by 627 votes to 33 with 18 abstentions.

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