EU policymakers are targeting a tightening of rules against financial crimes after a series of European banks were involved in suspected cases of money laundering, a confidential report shows.

The report, seen by the Times of Malta, seeks to streamline the monitoring of banks within the European Union.

This report, which was drawn up for the European Commission by a panel of experts, says the European Central Bank should continue preparations and conclude a multilateral memorandum of understanding with all relevant authorities tasked with fighting money laundering by January 10, 2019.

Malta has found itself in the EU’s crosshairs following a European Banking Authority (EBA) report criticising the Financial Intelligence Analysis Unit’s (FIAU) supervision of Pilatus Bank in 2016.

During a June visit to Malta, European Commissioner VÄ›ra Jourová expressed fears that there were gaps in Malta’s anti-money laundering laws.

In its report, the EBA took the FIAU to task over its failure to sanction Pilatus after preliminary findings by the unit raised concerns about the bank’s lack of compliance with anti-money laundering laws. The FIAU has in turn accused the EBA of drawing broad conclusions based on a single case.

Measures proposed in the Commission’s new report include guidelines on how to address money laundering at banks and more cooperation among the several European Union and national agencies that are responsible for countering financial crime and supervising banks.

The report says the Commission may examine an option to establish a single EU supervisor against money laundering, which would allow a centralised supervision similar to that exercised by the European Central Bank over eurozone banks’ financial stability.

One area often seen as lacking is the tracing and recovery of criminal assets.

An Asset Recovery Bureau set up by the government in 2015 lay dormant for close to two years.

Last month, the Justice Ministry said the bureau would, with immediate effect, be able to seize, administer and sell any assets, once there was a court decision in place.

In reaction to the report, MEP Roberta Metsola, who is a substitute member on the EP’s financial crimes, tax evasion and avoidance committee, said the focus on money laundering was essential because it was a known fact that going after the money was the most effective way to fight crime.

“In the European Parliament we are determined to not only have a robust legal framework but to also ensure that those responsible are effectively investigated and prosecuted.

“Crime cannot pay,” Dr Metsola said.

Independent journalism costs money. Support Times of Malta for the price of a coffee.

Support Us