Saturday, January 22

Mairead McGuinness, European Commissioner: “The anonymity of cryptocurrency users is over” | Economy

The Commissioner for Financial Services, Mairead McGuinness, in an appearance in the European Parliament last October.
The Commissioner for Financial Services, Mairead McGuinness, in an appearance in the European Parliament last October.YVES HERMAN / Reuters

Brussels wants to take a leap forward in the fight against the financing of organized crime with a comprehensive package of measures approved on Tuesday that includes the creation of a European Authority against Money Laundering (AMLA, for its acronym in English). After five directives deployed with uneven success in the EU partners, the European Commission wants to establish homogeneous standards through regulation supervised by a community agency. “We are no longer going to be in a situation in which the rules are going to be implemented differently between the member countries,” says the Commissioner for Financial Services, Mairead McGuinness (Drogheda, Ireland, 62 years old) in an interview with five European media, including EL PAÍS.

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The European authority is the linchpin of the new measures to combat dirty money in the EU, as EL PAÍS advanced this Monday. “From a global point of view, it is a powerful statement from the European Union. It expresses our determination to end money laundering, ”says McGuinness. “The proposal is a great step forward towards greater European regulation of this activity, which is too large and unhealthy and has an impact not only economic, but also social,” adds the commissioner, who recalls that behind money laundering there are crimes such as drug trafficking or child prostitution. “We must not let these criminals accumulate their wealth in our financial system.”

The fight against money laundering is among the priorities of the European Commission after scandals broke out across the continent. The Danish Danske Bank was the last straw. Even so, countries continue to drag their feet when it comes to translating European standards into their legislation. Brussels had to open a file to 23 partners for not transposing the fifth directive or doing so with deficiencies; In 12 cases, it was forced to subsequently launch infringement procedures and in four, to issue a reasoned opinion, which is the first step to going to the Court of Justice of the EU. “We are going to be very clear with the member countries: we need the full implementation of what we put in place,” says the commissioner. “The financial industry tells us that it must comply with different rules, depending on the country in which they operate. It should not be like that. We want there to be harmonization ”, he insists.

The AMLA will have powers to supervise a group of transnational financial companies, but also to put order in the efforts of the Twenty-seven in the fight against these crimes. “The authority will have powers to control the financial institutions with the highest risk. And not only that. It will also be responsible for coordinating the work of the financial intelligence units, which will allow for coordination between member countries, ”explains McGuinness. The regulation of the agency must now be agreed between the Council of the EU and the European Parliament. One of the aspects that will need to be addressed is that of location. Frankfurt and Paris start as favorites as they already host supervisors, but countries that were left out of the battle for the European Medicines Agency, such as Spain, can also sign up in the race. “Location is not the priority. For me, what is important is their role ”, he says.

10,000 euro limit for cash

The commissioner has not yet made the calculations of how many entities will be under the direct radar of the new authority. “It will be decided according to a risk-based approach. The number of entities can change over time, so that what entails risk today may not imply it tomorrow ”, he reasons. According to the legislative package, the risk will be evaluated depending on three criteria: the proportion of foreign clients or those who are politically exposed, the exchange of assets that have been identified as more susceptible to being the object of these illicit practices or the volume of operations with third parties. countries that have demonstrated deficiencies in this area. “It is not worth giving a number of supervised entities, but clearly those that have transnational activity will be. From what we have seen, we know that it is an area in which there are problems ”, he adds. “It is not an agency to find problems, but to avoid them,” concludes the commissioner.

The European Commission carried out a study in 2019 to identify the areas in which these illegal activities were taking place, which account for 1% of European GDP, according to Europol. That report pointed to professional football, the so-called visas O golden passports, the betting houses online and cryptocurrencies. The package presented by the Commission tries to tackle some of these areas. There is, for example, a piece of legislation to curb opacity with these digital currencies. “Those involved in the crypto space will now realize that anonymity is over,” he emphatically notes. “Service providers will have to include complete information about the sender and beneficiary of these transfers, in the same way that they currently do for electronic transactions.”

The other area that Brussels wants to control is cash. There, in order not to collide with capitals, the Commission has set a generous ceiling of 10,000 euros. Spain more than meets that threshold with the new anti-fraud law, which reduced cash payments to 1,000 euros between professionals and 2,500 between individuals. Not all countries, however, impose limits. Specifically, 12 have yet to do so. “They have explained to me that cash is present in family relationships. For example, a grandson may receive money from his grandfather. We do not want to interfere in normal situations where cash is given as a gift. But we are not naive to the reality that cash can be a source of dirty money ”, emphasizes the commissioner.

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