European Commission strengthens the protection of the euro by means of criminal law
The European Commission has today proposed to crack down on criminals who counterfeit euro notes and coins. Counterfeiting of the euro is estimated to have cost at least €500 million since the currency was introduced in 2002. The proposal aims to strengthen the protection of the euro and other currencies against counterfeiting through criminal law measures.
These include strengthening cross-border investigations and introducing minimum penalties, including imprisonment, for the most serious counterfeiting offences. The proposal will also enable the analysis of seized forgeries during judicial proceedings in order to detect further counterfeit euros in circulation.
Algirdas Šemeta, Commissioner for Taxation, Customs, Audit and Anti-Fraud, said: "The euro is one of the EU's most valuable assets. But if we don't fight collectively to protect it, nobody else will. A currency shared by 17 countries and 330 million people is an attractive target for criminals. So we must make sure that crime doesn't pay. A more harmonised approach to sanctions and better cross-border cooperation will help us to come down hard on currency counterfeiting."
Vice-President Viviane Reding, the EU's Justice Commissioner, said: "European citizens and businesses trust the authenticity of banknotes and coins. But this is not a given. The euro is the world’s second most important currency and we will take all necessary steps to stop it from being targeted by criminals. With today's proposal, we are reinforcing the fight against forged currencies with dissuasive criminal sanctions and more efficient investigative measures. Counterfeiting of currency by organised criminals undermines public confidence in the currency and impacts heavily on governments, business and individuals alike. Those responsible must not go unpunished – it is time we close regulatory loopholes to put a stop to counterfeiting across the European Union."
The Directive, which is a joint initiative of Vice-President Reding, Vice-President Rehn, Commissioner Šemeta, will oblige Member States to make effective investigative tools available for detecting currency counterfeiting cases, equivalent to those used to combat organised or other serious crime. The Commission is proposing that a minimum penalty of at least six months imprisonment be introduced for serious cases of production and distribution of counterfeit currency. And a maximum penalty of at least eight years would be introduced for the offence of distribution (as already applies today for the offence of production according to Council Framework Decision 200/383/JHA). This will strengthen the protection of the euro by better deterring crimes across the Union and improving cooperation between judicial authorities, to help catch fraudsters.
Finally, the Directive will require Member States to ensure that the National Analysis Centres and the National Coin Analysis Centres are also able to examine euro counterfeits during on-going judicial proceedings to enable the detection of further counterfeit euros in circulation.