PracticePeople In PracticeOrganised crime groups target accountants

Organised crime groups target accountants

Financial professionals such as accountants are becoming increasingly important to European organised crime groups, European Union (EU) police agency Europol has warned.

Link: MPs slam EU’s fraud evidence proposals

Calling for a ‘risk analysis of this phenomenon at an EU level to identify appropriate countermeasures’, Europol’s latest annual report on organised crime suggests that corrupt professionals are freelancing for criminals as a career choice.

It noted: ‘They provide their services either within their own organised crime group or as an external service to other organised crime groups against payment. This expertise is become all the more crucial given that crime networks are increasingly diversifying into new sources of revenue, all requiring different strategies to handle criminal proceeds’.

Furthermore, the report noted a trend in southern Italy involving the emergence of a Mafia elite controlling economic and financial interests, ‘delegating other activities like drugs, usury and extortion to lower profile individuals’.

The use of professional specialists by such multi-layered organisations creates, said Europol, ‘loose network structured groups (that) are more difficult to disrupt by law enforcement as they are more flexible’.

It added: ‘Organised crime groups are increasingly taking advantage of the benefits of legitimate company structures to conduct or hide their criminal acts’, also fuelling the demand for financial expertise.

The report also looks at national trends, noting that countries and regions particularly prone to organised financial crime include Denmark, France and Portugal. It also flags up continuing problems in central Italy, where ‘the traditional Mafia attempts to penetrate the financial world in order to launder their illegal profits’.

Across the EU, the report also noted a trend to towards money laundering via bank transfers using ‘cash deposit systems’.

‘Account holders are often straw men, and forged bank cards are used to withdraw the money, all of which further increases anonymity’, said the report.

For a copy of the 2004 European Union organised crime report, click here:

www.europol.eu.int

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