Maltese MEPs vote against stronger money laundering law

Labour, Nationalist MEPs vote against stronger anti-money laundering law that was heavily criticised by online gaming businesses

online gambling trade organisation Remote Gambling Association (RGA) said it was “disappointed” at decision to “single out internet gambling”.
online gambling trade organisation Remote Gambling Association (RGA) said it was “disappointed” at decision to “single out internet gambling”.

Five Maltese MEPs have voted against a parliamentary resolution on the review of Europe’s anti-money laundering rules, the Fourth Anti-Money Laundering Directive that is expected in late 2014.

Nationalist MEP Roberta Metsola, and Labour MEPs Claudette Abela Baldacchino, John Attard-Montalto, Joseph Cuschieri and Marlene Mizzi voted against the draft law on Tuesday.

Nationailst MEP David Casa was not present for the vote.

Voting register 11 March 2014 [PDF]

Under the AMLD, the ultimate owners of companies and trusts would have to be listed in public registers in EU countries.

The draft law would also require banks, auditors, lawyers, real estate agents and casinos, among others, to be more vigilant about suspicious transactions made by their clients. The aim is to make dodgy deals harder to hide and fight tax evasion.

“The public registers will make life more difficult for criminals trying to hide their money. Our economy currently loses huge amounts to tax evasion,” said Civil Liberties Committee rapporteur Judith Sargentini (Greens/EFA).

But online gambling trade organisation Remote Gambling Association (RGA) said it was “disappointed” at decision to “single out internet gambling”.

Online gambling will require due diligence measures for all customers as soon as a business relationship is established.

The vote is not the final decision as the EU Council may reject the positions of the European Parliament. A second reading and further negotiations are expected to take place after the European elections.

Anti-money laundering law

Under the AMLD, as amended by MEPs, a public central register in each EU country would list information on the ultimate beneficial owners of all sorts of legal arrangements, including companies, foundations, holdings and trusts.

These registers would be interconnected across the EU and would be "publicly available following prior identification of the person wishing to access the information through basic online registration", MEPs say. They nonetheless inserted several provisions in the amended AMLD to protect data privacy and to ensure that only the minimum information necessary is put in the register.

The proposed rules would require banks, financial institutions, auditors, lawyers, accountants, tax advisors and real estate agents, among others, to be more vigilant about suspicious transactions made by their clients. Casinos are included in the scope of the draft rules, but other gambling services posing a low risk may be excluded by member states.

The amended AMLD provides for a risk-based approach, enabling member states to better identify, understand and mitigate money laundering and terrorist financing risks. Parliament also voted on the Transfer of Funds Regulation, which aims to improve the traceability of payers and payees and their assets.
The rules on "politically-exposed persons", i.e. people at a higher than usual risk of corruption due to the political positions they hold, are extended to "domestic" politically-exposed persons. These people are those who are or have been "entrusted by the member state with prominent public functions", such as heads of state, members of government, supreme court judges, and members of parliaments.

In case of high-risk business relationships with such persons, additional measures should be put in place, e.g. to establish the source of wealth and source of funds involved.

Next steps

The European Parliament voted its first reading of the draft legislation, in order to consolidate the work done so far and hand it over to the next Parliament. This ensures that the MEPs newly elected in May can decide not to start from scratch, but instead build on work done during the current term.

The legislative resolution on the AMLD was passed by 643 votes to 30 with 12 abstentions and the legislative resolution on transfer of funds by 627 votes to 33 with 18 abstentions.

Organisations like Transparency International, the global coalition against corruption, say that EU money laundering rules need better enforcement and more information required to identify the source of funds passing through European financial markets. “Information on who ultimately owns and controls companies, trusts and other legal structures needs to be made publicly available in registers across the EU.”

More in Europe