Money laundering, i.e. the process through which
criminals give an apparently legitimate origin to
proceeds of crime, is an expanding and
increasingly international phenomenon It may particularly affect
economies which are undergoing transformation and which offer
significant opportunities for foreign investment. The financial
regulatory framework, both in banking and non-banking sectors, is often
less stringent in these countries than in others, which make them
vulnerable to money laundering operations. Given the diverse illegal
activities, including money laundering, of organised crime groups in
some of these countries and, in exceptional cases, their alleged
infiltration into entire national economies, it seems that it is in
their vital interest to create and maintain a credible financial system
capable of detecting, preventing and controlling money laundering.
In addition, recent experience
has shown that organised terrorist groups also misuse the world’s
financial system to fund their illegal operations, thus posing a serious
risk to financial institutions of being used for hiding terrorist money.
Measures aiming at the prevention and deterrence of money laundering
therefore need to be extended to terrorist financing.
The establishment of an
efficient anti-money laundering system is due in many countries to the
enforcement of national and international anti-money laundering measures
and their regular monitoring through international bodies, such as the
Financial Action Task Force on Money Laundering (FATF).
monitoring, which implies evaluating each other’s performance in
so-called “peer groups”, greatly enhances the compatibility of national
norms with international standards in the financial, law enforcement and
The Council of Europe’s action against money laundering and financing of
The Council of Europe
was the first international organisation which emphasised the importance
of taking measures to be used for combating the dangers of money
laundering with respect to democracy and the rule of law.
In 1977, the Council of
Europe’s European Committee on Crime Problems (CDPC) decided to
establish a select committee of experts to look into the “serious
problems raised in many countries by the illicit transfer of funds of
criminal origin frequently used for the perpetration of further crime”.
The work of this committee resulted in 1980 with the adoption by the
Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers of a
Recommendation on measures against the
transfer and safekeeping of funds of criminal origin which
includes a package of measures for developing a comprehensive anti-money
Further work on the
confiscation of the proceeds of drug trafficking was carried out through
the activities of the Co-operation Group to Combat Drug Abuse and
Illicit Trafficking in Drugs (known as the Pompidou Group) .
In September 1990,
Ministers adopted the
Council of Europe Convention on Laundering,
Search, Seizure and Confiscation of the Proceeds of Crime (ETS 141).
The aim of this
Convention is to facilitate international co-operation and mutual
assistance in investigating crime and tracking down, seizing and
confiscating the proceeds thereof. The Convention is intended to assist
States in attaining a similar degree of efficiency even in the absence
of full legislative harmony. This Convention has been ratified by all Council of Europe member
states, which makes it a particularly useful tool for international
cooperation due to its various provisions on mutual assistance. Furthermore, it is opened also to countries which are not members of
Convention” remains a landmark treaty which forms an important
cornerstone of anti-money laundering standards. It has been widely
ratified: to date, 48 States are Party to this treaty, including all 47
Council of Europe member States and one non-member State (Australia).
In 2003, the Council of Europe decided to update and widen the
Strasbourg Convention to take into account the fact that not only could
terrorism be financed through money laundering from criminal activity,
but also through legitimate activities. This process was completed in
2005 with the adoption on 3 May of the
Convention on Laundering, Search, Seizure
and Confiscation of the Proceeds from Crime and on the Financing of
Terrorism (CETS 198).
This new convention is the first international
treaty covering both the prevention and the control of money
laundering and the financing of terrorism. The text addresses the fact
that quick access to financial information or information on assets held
by criminal organisations, including terrorist groups, is the key to
successful preventive and repressive measures, and, ultimately, is the
best way to stop them. The convention includes a mechanism to ensure the
proper implementation by parties of its provisions, which has become
operational in 2009 (Conference
of the Parties to the Convention on Laundering, Search, Seizure and
Confiscation of the Proceeds from Crime and on the Financing of
Terrorism (CETS 198).