The confiscation of assets that have been transferred by an investigated or convicted person to third parties.
Organised crime activities are profit driven. The confiscation and recovery of proceeds from crime deprive criminals of what they have worked hard to acquire. Confiscation could have a deterrent effect. However, the current number of freezing and confiscation procedures in the EU and the amounts recovered from organised crime seem modest if compared to the estimated revenues of organised criminal groups.
Confiscation is a strategic priority in the EU's fight against organised crime. It is reflected in the EU Internal Security Strategy in Action, which confirmed the need to revise the existing EU legal framework on confiscation and asset recovery to hit criminals where it hurts them most.
Five EU legal instruments aim at improving confiscation and asset recovery (Framework Decisions 2001/500/JHA, 2003/577/JHA, 2005/212/JHA, 2006/783/JHA and 2007/845/JHA). However, their implementation has shown certain weaknesses. Thus, the Commission proposed in November 2008 ten strategic priorities on confiscation and asset recovery and emphasised the importance of enhancing cooperation between EU States in tracing assets.
The Commission has proposed new legislation to make it easier for EU states to confiscate assets derived from serious and organised crime and protect our economies. The proposed Directive will simplify existing rules and fill important gaps which are being exploited by organised crime groups. It will enhance the ability of EU 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.
The faster the tracing of assets derived from crime is, the more effective the confiscation and recovery of criminal profits can be. National Asset Recovery Offices (AROs) help in depriving criminals from their criminal profits. They identify assets that have been illegally acquired on their territories and facilitate the exchanges of relevant information at European level.
Following the Decision requiring EU States to set up these National Asset Recovery Offices, the Commission launched an informal Platform to further enhance their EU-level cooperation on and coordination of exchanges of information and best practices.
A recent Commission report showed that AROs are an important tool for going after criminals' money. While a few EU States have not yet established such an Office, cooperation between the existing members of the network is generally positive. However, the Offices are facing a number of common challenges, in particular regarding their capacity to access relevant financial information.
Extensive use has been made of DG Home Affairs funding programmes in this area. For example, the activities of the CARIN Network of practitioners (global network of asset recovery experts, including US experts) have been regularly funded under the AGIS and ISEC programmes. Management of confiscated assets and reuse of former criminal assets for social purposes are among the innovative projects supported by the Commission.