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New rules against money laundering approved by the Parliament: Now we need to focus on implementing them, NGOs say

Today the European Parliament approved the revision of the 4th Anti-Money Laundering Directive during its plenary session in Strasbourg. These new rules will strengthen the fight against corruption and money laundering in the EU and in developing countries by making public who owns and controls European companies. However, the revised rules fail to extend full transparency to all structures operating in the EU, including foreign companies and trusts.  

The ONE Campaign, Global Witness, Eurodad and Transparency International welcome this groundbreaking step in the fight against money laundering but are calling on Member States to go further when transposing the Directive by making information on trust ownership publically available.

Emily Wigens, interim Brussels Director at ONE, said: “Today, the European Parliament has shown great leadership agreeing new rules that will enable authorities, journalists and citizens alike to follow the billions of Euros siphoned out of developing countries each year – money that, if captured and taxed, could be used to tackle poverty and inequality.

However, the legislation contains a major loophole in failing to adequately tackle trust transparency. The European Parliament has backed strong transparency standards for trusts twice, and twice Member States have pushed back. The ball in now in their court – in particular, the 15 Member States issuing Open Government Partnership National Action Plans this summer have a golden opportunity to demonstrate their commitment to transparency and set the bar high by committing to implementing public trust registers.”

Nienke Palstra, Campaigner at Global Witness, said: “The EU’s new ground-breaking anti-money laundering rules establish public registers as the new global standard for tackling anonymous companies. For too long anonymous companies have acted as the getaway cars for the world’s criminal and corrupt – thanks to the EU we are now a step closer towards taking away the keys.

However, the Directive falls far short of meaningful transparency of trusts, leaving the door open to their continued use for money laundering, corruption and other crimes. If Member States are serious about tackling these problems, they should move beyond the Directive’s minimum requirements and set up public registers of ownership for both trusts and companies, in a consistent open-data format. Only then will these new transparency tools fulfil their potential to detect and deter crime.”

Tove Maria Ryding, Tax Coordinator at the European Network on Debt and Development (Eurodad), said: “Today’s decision represents a significant step in the right direction towards financial transparency. Public registers will reveal the real owners behind shell companies and ensure that these cannot be used to hide money.

However, a dangerous loophole remains, since it will still be possible to set up secret trusts. When implementing the directive at the national level, EU Member States can choose to close this loophole by introducing public ownership registers for both companies and trusts, and thereby prevent tax dodgers and the corrupt from continuing to hide behind a veil of secrecy. Therefore, we urge the EU Member States to ensure a quick and ambitious implementation of this important directive.”

Laure Brillaud , Policy Officer at Transparency International EU, said: “The EU’s new rules put Europe at the forefront of the fight against money laundering, but the devil is in the detail and some loopholes like trusts and other entities remain. That’s why it’s vital that EU Member States should address these issues while transposing the EU directive into national laws.”


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Note to editors:

Although the final directive is agreed in principle, it still requires final approval from the Council. There is however nothing preventing Member States from initiating the implementation immediately.