The European Commission has put forward a range of new measures to strengthen the EU’s capacity to fight organised crime and the financing of terrorism.
Among the new proposals are plans to crack down on money laundering and give law enforcement agencies greater powers to seize assets belonging to terrorist suspects. If adopted, the new legislation would also boost customs officers’ ability to check prepaid payment cards and cash sent through the post or via delivery firms.
In addition, the Commission wants to improve the sharing of information between law enforcement agencies and member states, and close gaps to prevent criminals exploiting differences between national laws.
Before becoming law, the package of measures will need to win the approval of all member states and the European Parliament.
“Terrorism remains a major threat to our safety. We must stay a step ahead to stop terrorists in their tracks and the fight against terrorism financing is part of it, Commission Vice-President Valdis Dombrovskis said.
“That’s why today we are proposing that money laundering be subject to effective criminal sanctions right across the EU. We are proposing cross-border freezing and confiscation of criminal assets within the EU, and putting an end to criminals circumventing cash controls at the EU’s external borders.”
The proposals are part of a wider plan to crack down on terrorist financing launched in the wake of last year’s Paris attacks, and were unveiled just days after a suspected Islamist fanatic killed 12 people by slamming a lorry into a Christmas market in Berlin.
First Vice-President of the European Commission Frans Timmermans commented: “With today’s proposals, we strengthen our legal means to disrupt and cut off the financial sources of criminals and terrorists. We must ensure we have the right tools in place to detect and stop suspicious financial flows and to support better cooperation between law enforcement authorities so that we can better protect the security of European citizens.”
According to EU officials, a number of recent terror attacks on European soil were at least partly funded with money sent from criminal networks based outside of the 28-nation bloc. In the wake of the Paris attacks, French officials revealed that the attackers moved small sums of money around, using prepaid credit cards to pay for weapons, transport and accommodation.
At the beginning of December, two men from the British city of Birmingham were jailed for handing thousands of pounds over to one of the alleged Brussels attackers. Zakaria Boufassil and Mohammed Ali Ahmed were sentenced to three and eight years in prison respectively after being convicted of giving £3,000 (€3,530) to Mohamed Abrini, the so-called “man in the hat”.