The 4th Anti-Money Laundering Directive: Brussels hears what we want to talk about

Following the European Commission’s publication of a proposal for a 4th Anti-Money Laundering Directive, the Commission hosted a conference in Brussels 15 March to discuss the hot issues in the world of Anti-money Laundering and Counter Terrorist Financing (AML/CTF).

Representatives from Transparency International EU Office were there, as was as our colleague and former TI Global board member, Jeremy Carver who was presenting on the first panel.

One of the big themes to emerge on the day concerned the effectiveness of AML/CTF measures (read more from TI). After all, there have been no shortage of global conventions, legislative measures and industry guidance documents on the topic, but still we witness many institutions failing to meet their obligations.

That’s why it was reassuring to hear representatives from the FATF, including their President Bjørn S. Aamo, promote their plans for country evaluations. Rather than just carrying out a health check on a nation’s statute books, the FATF will be asking if AML measures are having any tangible effect. Are illicit money flows being choked off? Are corrupt assets being recovered?  And, as we have blogged before, are covered institutions complying with their obligations and, if not, are dissuasive punitive sanctions being employed?

The other topic that kept rearing its head is another TI campaign objective; the establishment of business registers detailing beneficial ownership. A significant proportion of money laundering is enabled by the use of opaque corporate vehicles. So it has been much to the chagrin of TI and other civil society partners that the Commission’s ambition in this area has been lacking.

Therefore it was heartening to hear pan-European representatives from banking, the legal profession, accountancy and insurance make demands for the establishment or improvement of business registers across the EU’s member states. Conference moderator Joroen Hooijer plaintively asked “can we not talk about something else?”, but it was clear that this is a topic that the EU simply must put on the table.

So, as we take our campaign forward, it looks like we’ll have some unexpected allies at our side. In the months ahead, TI will focus its campaigning on the European Parliament and with Member States. Our attention will also be drawn to how preparations for this year’s G8 summit unfold. It might just turn out that the UK could tip the balance by pushing for greater corporate transparency.

At Davos this January David Cameron said “we’re going to push for more transparency on who owns companies.” TI will be working hard to persuade him and the EU to take action.

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