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.

Traditional judicial cooperation in criminal matters works through the request principle whereby 1 country makes a request to another country that then decides whether or not to comply with it.

This system can be very slow and inefficient. Modern criminals take advantage of these inefficiencies by both operating internationally and by acquiring and hiding assets in foreign countries.

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.

To improve and simplify the legal framework in this area, the Commission has proposed in 2016 a regulation on the mutual recognition of freezing and confiscation orders. The proposal aims at enhancing the recovery of criminal assets in cross-border cases while improving the protection of victims.

In 2003, the EU adopted the following framework decisions: