Background

Freezing and confiscating property deprives criminals of their illegally acquired assets. Freezing and confiscating property that has been acquired through a criminal offence is a crucial means of combating (organised) crime. It is also a way to stop the proceeds of crime being laundered and reinvested in legal or illegal business activities.

The European Commission first presented the proposal on the mutual recognition of freezing and confiscation orders on 21 December 2016.  The regulation was published in the Official Journal of the European Union, following the formal adoption by the Council and the European Parliament on 14 November 2018.

As from 19 December 2020 the regulation on the mutual recognition of freezing and confiscation orders is applicable. This regulation replaces the framework decisions on the mutual recognition of freezing orders as regards the freezing of property and on the mutual recognition of confiscation orders dating back from 2003 and 2006, which were deemed outdated and no longer aligned with the latest national and EU rules on freezing and confiscation, hence creating loopholes exploited by criminals.

The regulation applies between EU Member States (except Denmark and Ireland). The framework decisions from 2003 and 2006 continue to apply between Denmark and Ireland and between Denmark and Ireland and the other Member States.

The regulation complements the 2014 directive on the freezing and confiscation of instrumentalities and proceeds of crime and will facilitate freezing and confiscation in cross-border cases.

How does it work?

Freezing assets means temporarily retaining property, pending a final decision in the case. This means that the owner cannot dispose of their assets before the case is closed.

Confiscation is a final measure designed to stop criminals from accessing property obtained by breaking the law. The property is taken away permanently from the criminal or their accomplices.

An efficient and effective system of seizure and confiscation of criminal assets helps to combat crime while safeguarding the interests of European citizens.

The regulation applies to freezing and confiscation orders issued by a Member State within the framework of proceedings in criminal matters.

The regulation sets clear and short deadlines for the mutual recognition and execution of freezing orders.

It improves the victims' right to restitution and to compensation in cross-border proceedings.

The regulation provides safeguards to ensure that mutual recognition of freezing or confiscation orders are in line with the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights.

Member States shall inform the Commission of the competent authorities and of any declarations they submit with regard to the transmission of freezing and confiscation orders and their translations.

This information is transmitted to the European Judicial Network (EJN, for information on mutual recognition of freezing and confiscation orders, including on competent authorities).

In 2003 and 2006, the EU adopted the following framework decisions that – with the entry into application of Regulation (EU) 2018/1805 - only continue to apply between Denmark and Ireland and between Denmark and Ireland and the other Member States: