On April 17, 2018, the European Commission published a proposal for a directive aimed at increasing security within EU member states and across the EU by improving access to financial information, including bank account information, to the relevant authorities and bodies in charge for the prevention, investigation and prosecution of serious forms of crimes. It is envisaged that this will enhance their ability to conduct financial investigations and analysis and improve their cooperation. In addition, the proposal contains measures to improve the ability of Financial Intelligence Units to carry out their tasks under the 4th Money Laundering Directive.

Currently, most EU national authorities competent for the prevention, detection, investigation or prosecution of criminal offences do not have direct access to information on the identity of bank account holders held in centralized account registries or data retrieval systems. Indeed, such registries and systems are currently only operational in 15 EU member states and the relevant authorities only have direct access in six of those member states. This lack of or lack of access to, centralized information means the relevant authorities must send blanket information requests to all financial institutions. Delays in replies to these blanket requests can significantly hamper criminal investigations.

The 5th Money Laundering Directive will make it obligatory for member states to establish centralized bank account registries or data retrieval systems. The Commission proposes to provide direct access to such central mechanisms to the relevant authorities, including tax authorities, anti-corruption authorities and asset recovery offices. The proposal also sets out measures to facilitate the use of financial and other information to prevent and combat serious crime more effectively and to facilitate cooperation between FIUs and other relevant authorities, whilst maintaining a high level of protection of fundamental rights, in particular the right to protection of personal data.

The proposal follows a public consultation by the Commission which ran from October 2017 to January 2018. The Commission has published separately a summary of the responses it received to that consultation.

The proposal will now be considered by the European Parliament and the Council.

The Commission proposal is available at: https://ec.europa.eu/home-affairs/sites/homeaffairs/files/what-we-do/policies/european-agenda-security/20180417_directive-proposal-facilitating-use-information-prevention-detection-investigation-prosecution-criminal-offences_en.pdf, the impact assessment is available at:  http://ec.europa.eu/transparency/regdoc/rep/10102/2018/EN/SWD-2018-114-F1-EN-MAIN-PART-1.PDF  and the Summary of consultation responses is available at: https://ec.europa.eu/home-affairs/sites/homeaffairs/files/20171017_responses-summary.pdf.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.