EU Finance Ministers to Seek Creation of Central Money Laundering Authority: FT
01 Nov 2019

European Union finance ministers are expected to formally call for the creation of a central EU anti-money laundering (AML) authority, the Financial Times reported Thursday.

The ministerial mandate would task the European Commission with drawing up plans for an independent enforcement body with “direct powers” to oversee AML efforts among member-states. The proposed authority would be authorized to police financial institutions’ compliance with EU rules on AML due diligence and other compliance obligations, according to the report.

“Criminals and terrorists are taking advantage of loopholes, [undermining] trust in our financial system and our mission to protect our economies and citizens,” French finance minister Bruno Le Maire told the newspaper. “We need to decide now to harmonise the anti-money laundering rules across the EU and introduce stronger European supervision.”

What a new authority would look like remains unclear, however.

Officials in France and the Netherlands have recommended that the body be wholly new, but said that such an approach may take too long and could necessitate empowering the European Banking Authority (EBA) as an “alternative and quicker option,” the Financial Times reported.

But EU parliamentarians are “deeply dissatisfied with the EBA,” Dutch MEP Paul Tang told the newspaper.

“We need a very independent and firm authority,” said Tang, who also suggested that Europol being granted new authorities as a potential alternative.

EU officials say the plan could be introduced as regulations, which would directly apply to financial institutions, rather than as legislation, which would ultimately require member-states to adopt complementary national laws to enforce on a state level, the newspaper reported. EU regulations would harmonize AML obligations throughout the bloc and ease enforcement, the European Commission believes.

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