Europol says crime profits are slipping through


Greece ranks 18th in the European Union in terms of suspect money transactions, according to the results of a study by Europol, the European Union’s Agency for Law Enforcement Cooperation. 

Greece ranked behind the United Kingdom and the Netherlands, where 65 percent of so-called suspect transactions in the EU were recorded.

The results of the study, which was released last week, have prompted Europol to call for tighter controls and better cooperation among EU member states.

Suspect cases, the report said, rose to almost a million by 2014. However, less than 1 percent of these cases related to the funding of terrorism, which is the main focus of European security authorities.

Europol said that the Islamic State terrorists who carried out the deadly attacks in Paris in 2015 had financed their operations with pre-paid cards, which they used to legalize revenues from criminal activities.

Moreover, the study revealed that only a tiny amount of the proceeds of organized crime groups have been confiscated by national authorities across the bloc.

In its analysis of the statistics compiled by national authorities in the EU – from 2006 until 2014, the latest year for which data is available – Europol revealed that police authorities have confiscated just 1 percent of criminal proceeds in the bloc.

The same report said that “suspect” money transactions correspond to 0.7 percent of the EU’s annual gross domestic product.

Commenting on the report’s results, Europol Executive Director Rob Wainwright highlighted the fact that the mechanisms for monitoring money laundering operate on a national level, whereas the problem has international characteristics.

Moreover, only one in 10 transactions that are labeled as “suspicious” are investigated by national authorities in the EU, and Europol is urging banks to facilitate law enforcement authorities.

“The most surprising thing is the consistent figure of 10 percent … investigated by police,” Wainwright said, adding that more had to be done. He also explained that most of the laundering is powered by the drugs trade and that the number of professional money laundering syndicates is on the rise.

A suspect transaction is considered one where large amounts of cash are deposited or withdrawn.