Parliament sets up plan to fight the 3,600 criminal rings of EU

EU Parliament Committee on organised crime, corruption and money laundering (CRIM) in session. In the foreground Salvatore Iacolino (EPP, IT), author of the repost presented to the Committee. Vote by a show of hands. (European Parliament Audiovisual Services, 17/9/2013).

EU Parliament Committee on organised crime, corruption and money laundering (CRIM) in session. In the foreground Salvatore Iacolino (EPP, IT), author of the final repost presented to the Committee. Vote by a show of hands. (European Parliament Audiovisual Services, 17/9/2013).

A special purpose Committee of the European Parliament adopted this week a package of measures to fight organised crime, corruption and money laundering, setting out an EU action plan for 2014-2019. Blocking organised crime’s financial assets and incomes are on top of the list. This special Committee on Organised Crime, Corruption and Money Laundering of the EP was created in March 2012. Its purpose was to assess the impact of mafia-type activities on the EU’s economy and society and to recommend legislation and other measures to reinforce EU’s arsenal against such threats at international, European and national levels.

But how come such criminal activities became a special EU problem? Existing anti-criminal international organisations, like Interpol and special services of member state are not enough to combat crime? The answer is no, and the reason is structurally connected with the EU. Its name is, ‘single market’. Unquestionably one of the greatest achievements of the European Union is its single internal market. People, goods and money can move within the European Union and more so within Eurozone, crossing borders without obtrusion or special bureaucracy as they go about within national borders.

Aiming EU funds

This unified economic and administrative space however, unseen before in Europe, offered new and lucrative opportunities for criminal activities. Add to that the European wide and the nationally or regionally organised unlawful rings aimed at misappropriating EU funds and subsidies of any kind and we come up with brand new opportunities for criminal activities. All those particularly European problems obviously require special European answers.

This Special Committee on Organised Crime, Corruption and Money Laundering of the EP has being taciturnly working for 18 months. “We need to stand united in the fight against mafias. Today we approved a European framework to fight a European problem. Now it is up to Member States to follow-up and bring forward the measures we are proposing here” said the Italian MEP Salvatore Iacolino, who drafted the final proposals, approved last Tuesday by the Committee with 29 votes in favour, none against and 8 abstentions.

The more important new measure that the legislators now propose is that “people who are convicted by a final judgment of organised crime, corruption or money laundering to be excluded from bidding for any public procurement contract anywhere in the EU and barred from running for or holding any public office. All judgments of this kind should be immediately enforceable in all member states”.

Match-fixing, vote-buying

The Committee also addressed two particular criminal activities, athletic match-fixing and vote-buying. Legislators stressed that since match-fixing and illegal sports betting is an important source of income for organised crime throughout Europe, “member states should introduce new offences and appropriate penalties. Vote buying should also be made a criminal offence even when its benefits are intangible, they add”.

EP report author Liacolino also said “We have to attack criminal assets, abolish the bank secrecy and put an end to fiscal havens in the EU. That’s why it’s so important to develop stronger bank governance. What we have written in the final report doesn’t have to stay only on paper”.

This last remark by the Italian MEP is of paramount importance. If the recommendations of this report are not followed by member states, the 3,600 international criminal organisations operating in the EU will continue unimpeded their unholy activities. The report will be presented for final approval to the Strasbourg EP plenary in October.

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