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EU agrees new rules to make sure money laundering criminals are punished

Met dank overgenomen van Raad van de Europese Unie (Raad), gepubliceerd op donderdag 7 juni 2018.

On 7 June 2018, the Council (at ambassadors' level) confirmed the agreement reached between the Bulgarian presidency and the Parliament on new rules on using criminal law to counter money laundering. The new directive aims at disrupting and blocking access by criminals to financial resources, including those used for terrorist activities.

The main objectives of the new rules are to:

  • establish minimum rules concerning the definition of criminal offences and sanctions relating to money laundering;
  • remove obstacles to cross-border judicial and police cooperation by setting common provisions to improve the investigation of money laundering related offences;
  • bring EU rules in line with international obligations, in particular those arising from the Council of Europe Convention on Laundering, Search, Seizure and Confiscation of the Proceeds from Crime and on the Financing of Terrorism (Warsaw Convention) and the relevant Financial Action Task Force (FATF) Recommendations.

To conduct terrorist or other criminal activities, one needs money. Making sure money laundering activities are sanctioned and that EU-wide judicial and police cooperation is as effective as possible will help cut the flow of money going into the pockets of criminals. These new rules are another building block in the EU's overall plan to stem the flow of money available to criminals.

Tsetska Tsacheva, Bulgarian minister of Justice

The final compromise agreed between institutions establishes that:

  • Money laundering activities will be punishable by a maximum term of imprisonment of 4 years
  • Additional sanctions and measures may be imposed by judges together with imprisonment (e.g. temporary or permanent exclusion from access to public funding, fines, etc.).
  • Aggravating circumstances will apply to cases linked to criminal organisation or for offences conducted in the exercise of certain professional activities. Member states may also define such aggravating circumstances on the basis of the value of the property or money being laundered or of the nature of the offence (e.g. corruption, sexual exploitation, drug trafficking, etc.)
  • Legal entities will also be held liable for certain money laundering activities and can face a range of sanctions (e.g. exclusion from public aid, placement under judicial supervision, judicial winding-up, etc.)

The compromise also includes clearer rules to define which member state has jurisdiction and the cooperation between member states concerned for cross border cases, as well as the need to involve Eurojust.

Next steps

The text will now undergo linguistic revision before formal adoption by the Council and Parliament. Member states will then have up to 24 months to transpose the new provisions into national law.


The proposal was tabled by the Commission in December 2016 together with a proposal for a regulation on the mutual recognition of freezing and confiscation orders. Both texts are part of the EU plan to strengthen the fight against terrorist financing and financial crimes.

This directive also complements, on the criminal law aspects, the directive on the prevention of the use of the financial system for the purposes of money laundering or terrorist financing which was formally adopted in May 2018.

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