Today, the European Parliament, the European Commission and the Council of Member States have agreed on a new European Anti-Money Laundering Directive. The European Parliament has succeeded over the governments of the EU Member States to ensure that the general public in all EU countries have access to information about the beneficial owners of companies. Insight into the ownership structure of trusts is granted to persons who can demonstrate a legitimate interest. These include investigative journalists and non-governmental organisations (NGOs). The final compromise contains many Green proposals, which the European Parliament had adopted in its negotiating mandate by a majority of Social Democrats, Left, Liberals and Greens. The Dutch Green Judith Sargentini has been Parliament’s LIBE co-rapporteur.
Sven Giegold, financial and economic policy spokesperson of the Greens/EFA group in the European Parliament and Green ECON shadow rapporteur for the Directive, commented:
“This compromise is a step forward in the fight against money laundering and tax evasion in the EU. Public insight into the dubious business structures of companies sheds light on opaque tax havens. Money launderers and tax avoiders shy away from transparency more than the devil fears holy water. It is important that journalists and NGOs will be able to identify the owners of trusts that are repeatedly abused for white-collar crime. Trusts were at the centre of the revelations of the Paradise Papers. The European Parliament has largely got its way against the Member States, which until the very end resisted more transparency. In order to better investigate money laundering and other criminal activities, police and national authorities will have cross-border access to the owners of safe-deposit boxes and real estate.
After the many tax scandals, it is alarming that European governments are still blocking important measures against money laundering. As a money laundering paradise, Germany has often sided with the EU’s tax havens during the negotiations. There is no political will among governments to organise the enforcement of effective money laundering rules in their own countries. For example, governments resisted to accept Parliament’s demand for enhanced supervision of the Member States by the EU Commission. Although the Panama Papers showed how, for example, European money laundering rules for identifying customers were obviously violated in Malta, the majority of Member States are blocking more European control. The Council has also prevented companies and trusts based in third countries from registering in the EU and has merely agreed that the Commission should examine this possibility. It is disappointing that straw men can continue to formally act as owners of letterbox companies if the real owners of companies and trusts are unknown. As long as the Member States allow business with companies whose true owners are unclear, they align themselves as accomplices of money launderers and tax evaders.”
Following the terrorist attacks in Brussels and Paris and the revelations of the Panama Papers, in July 2016 the Commission put forward its proposal for a revision of the 4th Anti-Money Laundering Directive on a few specific issues. The Council of Member States also wanted only limited amendments, while the European Parliament had made far-reaching demands. After nine rounds of negotiations, the Commission and the Council have now agreed to a large part of Parliament’s proposals. The new rules strengthen the fight against money laundering, terrorist financing and tax avoidance, in particular by increasing transparency about the real owners of companies and trusts. Following the political agreement, the details will now be finalised in the next few weeks, followed by a plenary vote of the European Parliament on the final legislative text. The 5th Anti-Money Laundering Directive is expected to be published in the Official Journal in spring 2018. The Member States would then have to implement the new rules within 18 months, i. e. by the end of 2019 at the latest.
Commission proposal for the revision of the 4th Anti-Money Laundering Directive
Negotiating Mandate of the European Parliament
Details of the deal