New rules proposed for the confiscation of funds and other property acquired through crime

The European Commission proposed new rules that intend to 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.

A new Commission's proposal presents new rules for more effective and widespread confiscation of funds and other property acquired through crime. In addition, with this proposal will also protect the European economy against criminal infiltration and corruption. An Eurobarometer survey published in November 2011 showed that EU citizens think that the EU needs better tools to fight organised crime. The proposal also implies to recover more assets in favour of the State will have a significant impact on victims of crime, taxpayers and society as a whole. Once confiscated, the proceeds of crime may also be re-used for social purposes, or to provide funds to be re-invested into law enforcement or crime prevention initiatives.

In particular, the proposal lays 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). It also strengths 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), and 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). Moreover, the proposed rules aims to 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), and to 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.

These new rules and the EU Internal Security Strategy in Action presented in 2010, are aimed at fighting organised crime, because 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.