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Confiscation of criminal assets
The European Commission has proposed new rules to allow for more effective recovery of assets acquired through crime.
The new rules will enhance the ability of Member States to confiscate assets that have been transferred to third parties, it will make it easier to confiscate criminal assets even when the suspect has fled and will ensure that competent authorities can temporarily freeze assets that risk disappearing if no action is taken.
At present, the amounts recovered from organised crime are modest if compared to the huge revenues generated by illegal activities such as drug trafficking, counterfeiting, human trafficking and small arms smuggling.
In the EU the profits derived from organised crime are substantial. For example, EU sales of illicit drugs generate an estimated €100 billion per year. In the United Kingdom in 2006 organised criminal revenue was estimated at £15 billion. In the same year, £125 million were recovered by the state.
The proposal will simplify existing rules and fill important gaps which are exploited by organised crime. It will:
- Lay down clearer and more efficient rules for confiscating assets not directly linked to a specific crime, but which clearly result from similar criminal activities by the convicted person (extended confiscation).
- Strengthen the rules on the confiscation of assets that are transferred from the suspect to a third party who should have realised that they derive from crime (third-party confiscation).
- Allow confiscation of assets where a criminal conviction is not possible because the suspect is dead, permanently ill or has fled (limited non-conviction based confiscation).
- Ensure that prosecutors can temporarily freeze assets that risk disappearing if no action is taken, subject to confirmation by a court (precautionary freezing).
- Require Member States to manage frozen assets so that they do not lose economic value before they are eventually confiscated (asset management).
- Ensure that actions taken to freeze and confiscate assets are balanced by strong measures to protect fundamental rights, in particular to ensure that individual's right to a presumption of innocence and the right to property are respected.
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