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.

On 21 December 2016 the European Commission presented a proposal on the mutual recognition of freezing and confiscation orders. The new regulation will replace the framework decisions on mutual recognition of freezing orders and on mutual recognition of confiscation orders dating back from 2003 and 2006, which were deemed outdated and no longer aligned with the latest national and EU rules on freezing and confiscation, hence creating loopholes exploited by criminals.

After its formal adoption, the regulation will be published in the Official Journal of the European Union. The new rules will apply 24 months after their entry into force.

The new rules will complement the 2014 directive on the freezing and confiscation of instrumentalities and proceeds of crime. 

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

It improves the victims' right to get compensation for damages done to their assets or to get their stolen assets back from the State where they were confiscated.

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

In 2003 and 2006, the EU adopted the following framework decisions: