Amendment to the Directive on access to financial information would enhance international financial investigations
The European Commission issued a proposal for amending the Directive on access to financial information on 20 July. The amendment would allow the competent authorities of the EU Member States to access centralised bank account registries. The Government expressed its position on the proposal in its communications submitted to Parliament on 28 October.
The amendment to the Directive on access to financial information relates to the Commission’s proposal for a new Anti-Money Laundering Directive. According to the proposal, Member States must ensure that the information obtained from the centralised bank account registries is available through a single access point. The single access point would be developed and operated by the European Commission. The access point would allow the competent authorities to establish quickly whether an individual holds bank accounts in other Member States without having to ask all their counterparts in all Member States.
Following the proposed amendment to the Directive on access to financial information, the access point could be used by all authorities that have been designated as competent authorities. The new Anti-Money Laundering Directive would provide access to the single access point only to Financial Intelligence Units, i.e. the national bodies which receive suspicious transaction reports from obliged entities and forward them, as appropriate, to criminal investigation authorities.
Financing of cross-border crime could be investigated more effectively
The Government welcomes the proposal in principle. The proposal strengthens the fight against international organised crime by creating a tool for the competent authorities of the Member States to investigate and intervene more effectively in the financing of crime in cross-border cases. In these cases, it is important to find out who holds a bank account in a Member State other than that carrying out the investigation.
In line with the proposal, the authorities of other Member States could access Finland’s bank and payment accounts control system only for the purpose of preventing, detecting, investigating or prosecuting a serious criminal offence or supporting a criminal investigation concerning a serious criminal offence. This would minimise restrictions on the protection of personal data. However, the Government considers it necessary for the Commission to request an opinion on the matter from the European Data Protection Supervisor.
Parliament discusses national implementation of the Directive
The current Directive on access to financial information already requires that each Member State designate the competent authorities empowered to access and search its national centralised bank account registry. Under the Directive, access may be granted to authorities competent for the prevention, detection, investigation and prosecution of serious offences.
The Government submitted its proposal for implementing the Directive to Parliament on 7 October. The proposal would designate the police, the Financial Intelligence Unit, Customs and the Border Guard as the designated authorities.
Elina Rantakokko, Chief Specialist, tel. +358 295 488 611, [email protected]