EU Commission fosters confiscation of mafia assets
EU Commission proposes a legislative directive for the confiscation of criminal assets at European level. An unprecedented and crucial step in the fight against organized crime.
Europe closes in around organised crime groups. Through EU Commissioner for Home Affairs Cecilia Malmstrom, the European Commission published yesterday (March 12) a new legislative proposal to confiscate criminal assets around Europe. The measure would allow Member States to hit those crime syndicates who are responsible of USD 2.1 trilion profits in 2001 (about 3.6% of global GDP). In two EU Member States, criminal profits amount to EUR 150 billion in Italy in 2011 and about GBP 15 billion in UK in 2006.
Such incredible ammounts of money pollute legal economy at global level daily, alter financial equilibrium, distort the free market and damage the lowest layers of society.
«We need to hit criminals where it hurts, by going after the money, and we have to get their profits back in to the legal economy, especially in these times of crisis» said Malmstrom. She also added that the new legislation will simplify existing rules and fill gaps in judicial Member States' legislations. The aim is to harmonize more efficient tools for the fight against criminals and to obtain back those profits and assets acquired through illegal activities. Such an initiative can be even more important in times of crisis, as the money could be invested in welfare sectors, health care, schools or could be returned to victims. «Law enforcement and judicial authorities must have better tools to follow the money trail» concluded the Commissioner.
The law proposal comes after NGOs such as Libera and FLARE Network, together with several MEPs, have spent years in promoting at EU level confiscation a crucial tool in the fight against organised crime. The capability by criminals to launder money abroad and to invest it profiting of judicial gaps around EU could now suffer a mortal blow.
FLARE Network newly-elected President Franco La Torre has greeted «with great pleasure the law proposal: one of the most efficient instruments to fight criminal organisations», and he also hopes for «the introduction into the directive of the possibility to use such assets for social purposes, optimizing the experience achieved by Italian association Libera in all these years. This is, indeed, the real added value of Italian antimafia legislation». This issue will aslo be at the center of the debates during the Commemoration Day in memory of victims of mafias to be celebrated in Genoa, Italy, on Saturday, March 17.
Many are the norms included into the law proposal. Among which stands the experience by both Dutch and Italian legislations, together with the possibility to expand the measure to cybercrime and corruption related crimes. What appears as the main a novelty in the legislative proposal is for non-conviction-based confiscation, applying in the following cases:
Assets which are not linked to a specific crime, but clearly result from similar criminal activity (extended confiscation);
Assets transferred by the criminal to a third party who should have realised that they were derived from criminal activity;
When the suspect is deceased, permanently ill or has fled;
Allowing law enforcement authorities to freeze assets that risk disappearing.
MEP Sonia Alfano, who presented a report on organised crime in EU last October, also welcomes the Commission's directive and added that «extended confiscation, the transfer of assets by the criminal to a third party and the possibility to freeze assets in absentia are all tools included in our legislation since many years and need to be now exported to and be enhanced in all EU countries».
The law proposal comes last of five Framework Decisions released since 2001 that, however, «have proven to be inadequate, unevenly implemented and under-used» according to Commisioner Cecilia Malmstrom. The new law proposal has all potentials to effectively fill those legislative gaps whose criminal organisations have profited of all around Europe. The call is now on to the European Parliament.
«We wish the directive will one day soon include norms to regulate a social use of such criminal assets as well» concluded Franco La Torre. Of the same opinion is MEP Rosario Crocetta who believes «this is a crucial step in the right direction but Europe must as well legislate in the matter of the use of criminal profits for social purposes as we do in Italy».