In 2009, proceeds of crimes such as drug trafficking, counterfeiting, human trafficking and small arms smuggling were estimated to €1.5trillion according to UN estimates.
Today, less than one per cent of those proceeds of crimes are frozen and confiscated. Laws are uneven in the member states and confiscation differs much from one member states to another. As a result, most of this "dirty money" is laundered and channelled into the licit economy.
Our priority must be to follow the money across borders and confiscate the profits of criminals. Otherwise all we do is useless. This is why I welcome the adoption of the directive on freezing and confiscation of instrumentalities and proceeds of crime in the European Union by the plenary with a very strong majority.
Under the newly adopted directive, extended confiscation will apply to more crimes than before, including active and passive corruption in the private and public sectors as well as active and passive corruption involving EU and member states officials, participation in a criminal organisation, child pornography, cyber criminality and criminal offence punishable in the member states of a maximum of at least four years. The list of offences enabling extended confiscation can be widened by the European commission to other crimes.
In addition, third party confiscation will be possible in cases of goods transferred for free or below the market price and when the third party knew or should have known that the purpose of the transfer or acquisition was to avoid confiscation.
Confiscation measures were extended to cases of flight or illness of the suspected or accused person. [pullquote]The rights of victims of crime to seek compensation for their claims are now ensured by this directive[/pullquote].
Regarding further actions in the area of confiscation, a joint declaration by the council and the European parliament asks the European commission to carry out a study on the benefits of confiscation without a criminal conviction, which shall include cases of 'death' and other situations not covered by the new directive.
Only if we take money and assets of criminals we can dare to believe that we reduce the serious criminality. Sending some people to jail but leaving the dirty money circulating freely cannot be tolerated.
Member states will have 30 months to transpose the directive into their national laws.