MEPs Push for New EU Laws to Streamline Asset Seizures and Compensate Victims

Martin Banks
Asset Seizure text write on a paperwork isolated on office desk.

Belgium (Brussels Morning newspaper), MEPs say that new EU laws on seizing criminal assets would ensure “fast and efficient freezing operations everywhere in the EU, and quicker compensation for victims.”

Euro deputies say the legislation will speed up asset freezing and confiscations and close loopholes.

Members of the Civil Liberties, Justice, and Home Affairs Committee on Tuesday adopted a draft position on new rules with 50 votes in favor, 1 against, and 4 abstentions. 

It was said that, compared to existing legislation, the new directive would also cover trafficking in firearms, certain crimes committed as part of a criminal organization, and the violation of EU sanctions. 

In their position, MEPs proposed to include also illegal trafficking of nuclear material, crimes falling within the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court, the illegal seizure of aircraft and ships, and sabotage.

The agreed text would close loopholes by ensuring assets can be frozen quickly, with temporary urgency measures where necessary, it is claimed.

The proposal would also crack down on those evading confiscation with the help of a third person, and allow confiscation in certain cases where conviction is not possible, for example in cases of illness or death of a suspect.

To make cross-border investigations more efficient, the law would harmonize the powers of asset recovery offices set up by member states, ensuring that they get access to necessary information, such as beneficial ownership registries, securities and currency information, customs data, and annual financial statements of companies. Finally, to prevent assets from degrading, member states would have to set up dedicated offices to manage confiscated assets.

MEPs also said on Tuesday that they want to ensure that victims are compensated before confiscation, especially in cross-border cases, and allow confiscated assets to be used for social or public interest purposes.

After the vote, rapporteur Lorant Vincze, an EPP member from Romania, noted, “It is of utmost importance that criminals are deprived of their gains, limit their capacity to reinvest them into the legal economy and make sure that engaging in criminal activities does not pay. 

“The report extends the directive’s scope to additional pertinent crimes, strengthens competent authorities in identifying, freezing, and managing assets, widens the access asset recovery offices have to relevant databases, prioritizes compensating victims, and improves cooperation among relevant national authorities and EU agencies.”

In 2010–2014, only 2.2 pc of crime proceeds in the EU were frozen and only 1.1% of these proceeds were confiscated. In December 2021, MEPs called for the EU’s regime on asset recovery and confiscation to be harmonized.

MEPs say that, recently, the EU’s comprehensive sanctions against Russia following its invasion of Ukraine have shown the need to implement sanctions more stringently and improve asset tracing. 

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Brussels Morning is a daily online newspaper based in Belgium. BM publishes unique and independent coverage on international and European affairs. With a Europe-wide perspective, BM covers policies and politics of the EU, significant Member State developments, and looks at the international agenda with a European perspective.
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Martin Banks is an experienced British-born journalist who has been covering the EU beat (and much else besides) in Brussels since 2001. Previously, he had worked for many years in regional journalism in the UK and freelanced for national titles. He has a keen interest in foreign affairs and has closely followed the workings of the European Parliament and MEPs in particular for some years.