The European Commission has sent legal warnings to Portugal, as well as Cyprus, the Netherlands and five other EU states over their delays in taking action to account for new anti-money laundering rules adopted by European Union two years ago.
All EU member-states were required to enforce by January of this year tighter rules to counter dirty-money risks in a wide range of sectors, including cryptocurrency exchanges, prepaid cards and shell companies. The new set of rules were proposed back in 2016 by the EU Commission in the wake of the Paris terrorist attacks which killed more than 130 people. The clampdown was meant to hamper terrorist funding and other financial crimes.
EU governments and lawmakers agreed on the new rules three years ago and then formally adopted them in 2018, however, Portugal, Cyprus, Hungary, the Netherlands, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia and Spain are yet to integrate the rules into legislation, the EU Commission warned on Wednesday of this week.
It sent each country a letter of “formal notice”, the first step of a lengthy legal procedure that could lead to large fines if rules are not correctly turned into state law. The warnings ultimately show heightened attention by EU authorities for the fight against money laundering after a series of high-profile cases that hit major banks in the bloc in past years.
However, the commissioner responsible for money laundering, Valdis Dombrovskis, former prime minister of Latvia, has been criticised by lawmakers for slowing down new reforms invoked after dirty-money scandals in a number of EU states, namely Portugal.
Under the latest overhaul, cryptocurrency exchange platforms are required to identify their users, ending anonymity that could favour money laundering. It will also become easier to identify the ultimate owners of companies and trusts.