The Council of the European Union (the Council) has called for a series of cross-continent actions designed to tackle financial crime. The move signals a growing awareness from EU policymakers that corporate and financial crime requires a pan-European response, necessitating greater cross-border cooperation and regulation.

In a statement released this week, the Council has stated that Member States should:

  • take greater steps to interconnect national bank records, through the use of centralised bank registries due to be established by September 2020;
  • enhance cross-border cooperation in conducting financial crime investigations, increasing the sharing of information between financial intelligence units, asset recovery offices, customs authorities, tax authorities and law enforcement authorities; and
  • further promote the use of joint investigation teams in order to tackle money laundering and to investigate funds derived from organised crime.

It also called on the European Commission, the EU’s law-making body, to:

  • draft further measures to support investigations into financial crime, including powers to deal with frozen assets, with a view to confiscation;
  • harmonise the legal framework for connecting data-sharing by national enforcement bodies;
  • renew efforts to agree an EU-wide legal limit on cash payments; and
  • improve the legal framework for virtual assets, such as cryptocurrencies, in line with the Financial Action Task Force’s recommendations.

Finally, it called on the EU’s crime-fighting agency, Europol, to make full use of the new European Financial and Economic Crime Centre. The centre is intended to support “cooperation among law enforcement authorities in their fight against frauds, money laundering, corruption and counterfeiting, while systematically promoting the recovery of criminal assets across the EU and beyond”.

Companies operating in the EU should expect further financial crime legislation and greater cross-border coordination in the months and years ahead.