Despite stringent regulations aimed at curtailing money laundering in the European Union (EU), the crime is still rampant across several countries on the Continent. According to a report from AFP, an absence of cooperation between EU states is allowing criminals to continue laundering money through various banks.
“There are problems relating to coordination at various levels: at the national level, between prudential and anti-money laundering institutions, and between states and the European Union,” said Laure Brillaud, Transparency International EU’s Anti-Money Laundering Policy Officer while speaking to AFP.
Money laundering is the practice of disguising money obtained through illegal means to look like legitimate income or hide it all together. According to an article on Investopedia, the three steps in laundering money are “placement, layering and integration.” The schemes can be simple or extremely complex, and can involve the use of phony businesses, currency exchanges, and even cryptocurrency. According to Business Insider, the crime is practiced across the globe and has damaged the economies of developing countries and world superpowers alike.
Although the crime is seen across the EU, Denmark has been hit especially hard. According to AFP, a major investigation of money laundering uncovered around 200 billion euros thought to have been laundered through the country’s Danske Bank in “suspicious transactions.” The transactions, many of which originated in Russia and Britain, took place at the bank’s Estonia branch. The United Kingdom has announced they will be investigating the trades as well.
While the Danske Bank scandal is embarrassing, Denmark is not the only country to fall victim to financial criminals. Latvia, The Netherlands, and Malta have all seen significant money laundering activities as well.
The United States has taken a renewed interest in preventing further laundering activities from proliferating. This new interest from the US comes after inspectors uncovered a connection between a group of money launderers using a Maltese bank to wash funds in “North Korea’s nuclear weapons program,” according to AFP.
“It’s a good sign that these cases are coming to light, but it remains a concern that the United States has to flag the problem,” said Brillaud.
While the EU has not given up the fight against this particular brand of financial criminals, many experts believe the governing body is “no match” for the launderers who are taking advantage of the group’s lack of cohesiveness to continue their vocation. The European Commission adopted a new strategy to fight against laundering in August of 2018, however, no “centralized authority” currently exists to implement the strategy across the entire continent.
“The first problem relates to rule implementation; then there is a concern over the EU’s follow-up not just of whether the directive has been implemented into law, but also that the law is actually applied,” said Brillaud.
The European Banking Authority (EBA) may be Europe’s best option to lead the fight against laundering, but currently, the EBA lacks the teeth to enforce meaningful legislation against currency washing.