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Crime must not pay: Going after criminal assets

12 March 2012

Every year in Europe, hundreds of billions of euro go straight into the pockets of criminal gangs and the mafia. Despite efforts by law enforcement around Europe, much of the illegal profits remain in the hands of criminals. On Monday, the Commission proposed new rules for more effective and widespread confiscation of funds and other property acquired through crime. This will enhance the ability of Member States to confiscate assets that have been transferred to third parties, it will make it easier to confiscate criminal assets even when the suspect has fled and will ensure that competent authorities can temporarily freeze assets that risk disappearing if no action is taken.

"We need to hit criminals where it hurts, by going after the money, and we have to get their profits back in to the legal economy, especially in these times of crisis. Law enforcement and judicial authorities must have better tools to follow the money trail. They also need greater means with which to recover a more significant proportion of criminal assets," said Cecilia Malmström, Commissioner for Home Affairs.

At present, the amounts recovered from organised crime are modest if compared to the huge revenues generated by illegal activities such as drug trafficking, counterfeiting, human trafficking and small arms smuggling. These profits make criminal groups stronger and robs European citizens of tax money which could be invested in health care or schools.

According to UN estimates, the total amount of criminal proceeds generated in 2009 may have been approximately $2.1 trillion, or 3.6 per cent of global GDP in that year. While most of this dirty money is laundered and reinvested into the legal economy, currently less than 1% of the proceeds of crime are frozen and confiscated.

More: Read the full press release and questions and answers about the proposal, and watch a video of coonfiscated assets around Europe. Extracts from the press conference here.