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European Parliament Backs New Money Laundering Law

Monday, March 17, 2014

The European Parliament has voted in favor of draft anti-money laundering rules that would require the ultimate owners of companies and trusts to be listed in public registers in European Union (EU) countries.

A legislative resolution on changes to the current anti-money laundering directive (AMLD) was passed by 643 votes to 30, with 12 abstentions.

If the amendments make it through the new parliament, which will be elected in May, they would provide for the establishment of a central public register in each EU state. The individual registers would then be interconnected across the Union and be made publicly accessible, following prior identification of the person wishing to access the information via basic online registration. Privacy provisions would ensure that only the minimum information necessary was put on the register.

The proposals are intended to force banks, financial institutions, auditors, lawyers, accountants, tax advisers, and real estate agents to be more vigilant about "suspicious" transactions made by their clients. The AMLD provides for a risk-based approach, to enable EU member states to better identify, understand, and mitigate money laundering and terrorist financing risks.

Casinos are included in the scope of the draft rules, but other gambling services posing a low risk may be excluded by member states.

Commenting on the vote, the Remote Gambling Association (RGA) said that while it approved of the directive's objectives, it was disappointed that online gambling had been singled out as requiring the application of due diligence measures to all customers as soon as a business relationship is established. This would run counter to the so-called risk-based approach that has traditionally been a key feature of AMLDs, and could mean that the online gambling industry is compelled to conduct due diligence on every one of its customers, it said.

RGA Chief Executive Clive Hawkswod said: "The licensed online gambling sector has highly developed tools for identifying possible threats, and has an excellent record in preventing money laundering. As an industry we are never complacent, but quite simply there is no justification for singling out our sector for this kind of treatment."

"We have consistently supported a risk-based approach, which we consider to be the most suitable manner to tackle any problems and, of course, individual member states can introduce additional measures if there are specific issues within their jurisdictions. We hope now that the EU Council will reject the Parliament's position on this issue and that the European Commission will defend its original stance."

By voting in favor of the changes, the current parliament hopes to ensure that its successor does not have to start from scratch, but can build on work done during the current term.