Europe acts on terror bank accounts

Italy, Germany, France and Switzerland have already started to crackdown on accounts, while the UK and Spain have their hands tied by legislation.

The UK, which proposed the United Nations resolution to impose sanctions on non-compliant financial centres, said it could only act on accounts named by the EU, while Spain said only a Spanish judge could order the freezing of specific accounts.

In France new measures have been announced to immediately freeze the assets of all 27 individuals or organisations that appear on the US lists of suspects as well as a list compiled by the EU. The French authorities have already frozen Pounds 2.7m of assets in a two-year long campaign.

The Italian Banking Association says it had some of the toughest banking rules in Europe because of its war waged with the Sicilian Mafia, while the Swiss Federal Office of Police has set up a pan-government operation called ‘Terror USA’ involving security forces, and the police in co-operation with the FBI.

Funds used for criminal activity can be frozen or confiscated, and Switzerland said there was ‘undoubtedly sufficient evidence’ to act on the 27 names on the US list. However, it said it would be another matter if the list extended to thousands of names.

And in Germany banking privacy laws are to be reconsidered and plans are afoot to institute new measures to prevent money laundering.

The international crackdown on money laundering begun in the wake of the terror attacks in the US two weeks age after US president George Bush signed an executive order freezing the assets of 27 individuals and organisations that America considers to be terrorist groups.

Bush said the names constituted ‘the financial equivalent of law enforcement’s most-wanted list’ but the US has no power to act on banking authorities outside the US and needs a UN resolution passed to ensure a successful international campaign.

Chancellor Gordon Brown’s proposal to the UN, which is currently under consideration by the G7 nations, would aid Bush’s international campaign.

If it were accepted by the G7, it would allow the UN to apply harsher sanctions on financial centres that do not comply with money laundering guidelines and requirements to report suspicious financial activities to regulatory authorities.

The US initiative has been welcomed by the OECD which has waged a long campaign to enforce transparency and accountability in offshore financial centres.


US to lead money laundering fight

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