On 26 June 2017 the European Commission published the press release informing that the EU Directive 2015/849 of 20 may 2015 on the prevention of the use of the financial system for the purposes of money laundering or terrorist financing has entered into force.
This Directive is aimed not only at strengthening the existing AML/CFT rules and closing the current gaps in the laws of the Member States, but also at increase of transparency of corporate and financial information in order to prevent tax evasion.
The Directive contains the following measures which all EU Member States must implement at the national level:
- reinforcing the risk assessment obligation for banks, lawyers, and accountants;
- setting clear transparency requirements about beneficial ownership for companies. This information will be stored in a central register of each Member State, such as commercial registers, and will be available to national competent authorities (the general public will not have access to such information, however some countries, e.g. the United Kingdom, already practice such access on their own initiative);
- facilitating cooperation and exchange of information between financial intelligence units from different Member States to identify and follow suspicious money transfers to prevent and detect crime or terrorist activities;
- establishing a coherent policy towards non-EU countries that have insufficient AML and CFT rules;
- reinforcing the sanctioning powers of the EU countries’ competent authorities.
Implementation of the Directive by the EU Member States will entail strengthening the compliance banking procedures at the stage of opening accounts and tracking the current financial transactions of the clients. Besides this, the identification of beneficial owners will be required both for existing and newly established companies in the EU.