Wednesday

20th Mar 2019

Opinion

Time for action on financial transparency

  • Washing machines: MEPs are set for a committee vote on the anti-money laundering directive on 13 February (Photo: BLPerk)

On 13 February the European Parliament will have a once-in-a-decade opportunity to vote for legislative revisions to the current EU Anti-Money Laundering Directive (AMLD).

If implemented correctly, a revised AMLD could have a tremendous impact on the battles against corruption, drug trafficking, tax evasion and a slew of other criminal activities all currently facilitated by the ease in which money can still be laundered in Europe today.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

The draft EU AMLD would, in part, require all companies registered in the EU to hold details of who really owns and controls them – their beneficial owners. This might not sound like much but consider this: in Europe less personal information is asked of a company opening a bank account than there is of an individual applying for a driver’s license, to rent an apartment or to simply obtain a library card.

As a result, many companies are opened in names unassociated with that of the person who really owns or controls them. And once a bank account has been opened in a false name, if illegal activity is suspected it is almost impossible to follow the money laundering criminal money trail back to the owner.

A public register would have made it more difficult for mafia organisations Cosa Nostra and Camorra to use Italian and other shell companies to launder huge sums of money. Over the last decades, Italian mafia groups used Italian companies to defraud the European Union out of millions of euros that were meant to be used to regenerate Europe’s poorest regions.

Last year, the European Commission hired accounting firm Deloitte to look into the effectiveness of the current AMLD. They found that it did not do enough to combat international or even pan-European money laundering schemes.

One of the short-comings high-lighted in the study was the difficulty banks have in identifying an account’s beneficial owner.

Not only can the due-diligence be a costly and time-consuming undertaking, but without substantial prohibitive measures in place, the incentive for banks to chase down information about wealthy clients is sometimes missing.

We belong to those who feel we need to go a step further and require European countries to set up registries of the beneficial owners of companies.

These registers should be publicly accessible.

By sharing company ownership with all interested parties - including banks, law enforcement, journalists, citizens and NGOs - we can ensure that adequate oversight is guaranteed and information is made available to those who need it.

Bankers will be able to follow through on due diligence, law enforcement will be able to attach names to proceeds from crime, journalists can research political contributions or other questionable or even illegal donations (and many other stories of corruption) and average citizens or small businesses could learn, for example, to better understand who is behind their partners, suppliers or customers.

Providing beneficial ownership information to the public registry would not require much from the companies beyond sharing information they should already possess such as the company beneficial owner’s full name, date of birth, the means of exercising control over the company, contact details and information detailing the legal shareholders.

With the AMLD vote, Europe has the potential to set the standard on anti-money laundering for the rest of the world. So much good to be done with relatively little effort - we hope MEPs from other member states are as clear about the wealth of possibilities as we are.

Cecilia Wikstroem is a Liberal Swedish MEP. Koen Roovers works in Brussels for the Financial Transparency Coalition, an international network of not-for-profit groups which advocates transparency and accountability in the global financial system

Catalan independence trial is widening Spain's divides

What is really needed is not the theatre of a rebellion trial, but a forensic examination of whether public funds were misused, and a process of dialogue and negotiation on how the Catalan peoples' right to self-determination can be satisfied.

My plan for defending rule of law in EU

EPP leader and prospective next EU Commission president Manfred Weber spells out his plan for dealing with recalcitrant EU member states - ahead of Wednesday's EPP meeting on the vexed issue of Hungary's Viktor Orban and Fidesz.

EU must get real on Russia

The EU must call the Ukraine conflict by its true name - Russia's illegal war on its peaceful neighbour - and take commensurate action to protect peace in Europe.

Greta is right: We need courage to change

Hundreds of thousands of people are joining Greta Thunberg on Friday for a Global Strike for Future. We can only support the appeal of these young people, who resolutely aim to forge a sustainable Europe, a sustainable planet.

News in Brief

  1. Merkel: I will fight to the 'last hour' for orderly Brexit
  2. EU affairs ministers demand Brexit clarity from London
  3. Nordic MEP candidates in first ever joint EU election debate
  4. UK announces EEA trade deal ahead of EU summit
  5. Four European cities among world's most expensive
  6. Violent 'yellow vest' protesters ban in Paris
  7. Russia celebrates fifth anniversary of Crimea annexation
  8. Blow for May as third vote on Brexit deal ruled out

Italy should capitalise on Brexit

Now that the UK is leaving, Italy can, and should, step up. It is the third largest country and economy in the EU. Spain and Poland follow, but they are significantly smaller economically and population-wise.

The Magnitsky Act - and its name

It is disappointing that so many MEPs in the Socialist and Green group caved in to Russian interests, in fear of challenging a plutocratic regime, by saying 'no' to naming the Magnitsky legislation by its rightful name: Magnitsky.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  3. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  4. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  6. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan
  7. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  9. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic food policy inspires India to be a sustainable superpower
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID
  12. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership

Latest News

  1. Have a good reason for Brexit extension, Barnier tells UK
  2. EU countries push for new rule of law surveillance
  3. EU rolls out €525m for military projects, but bars illegal tech
  4. May to seek Brexit extension amid UK 'constitutional crisis'
  5. Catalan independence trial is widening Spain's divides
  6. My plan for defending rule of law in EU
  7. Anti-corruption lawyer wins first round of Slovak elections
  8. The changing of the guards in the EU in 2019

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Intercultural Dialogue PlatformRoundtable: Muslim Heresy and the Politics of Human Rights, Dr. Matthew J. Nelson
  2. Platform for Peace and JusticeTurkey suffering from the lack of the rule of law
  3. UNESDASoft Drinks Europe welcomes Tim Brett as its new president
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers take the lead in combatting climate change
  5. Counter BalanceEuropean Parliament takes incoherent steps on climate in future EU investments
  6. International Partnership For Human RightsKyrgyz authorities have to immediately release human rights defender Azimjon Askarov
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersSeminar on disability and user involvement
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersInternational appetite for Nordic food policies
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Nordic Innovation House in Hong Kong
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region has chance to become world leader when it comes to start-ups
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersTheresa May: “We will not be turning our backs on the Nordic region”
  12. International Partnership for Human RightsOpen letter to Emmanuel Macron ahead of Uzbek president's visit

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us