One of the main aspects of the fight against serious and organised crime has been the focus on targeting the proceeds of criminality with the view of rendering illicit activity less profitable and attractive for criminals. In addition, financial investigations seek to deprive criminals, and especially criminal groups, of the resources necessary to pursue further criminal activity. For further information in this respect, please see the section Confiscation and asset recovery.
In order to secure the confiscation of proceeds of crime, it is essential to ensure timely identification of such funds and application of provisional measures, so that the assets in question are not hidden by the criminal network. Efforts have been initiated to introduce a systematic use of financial investigations. Financial investigation should be carried out simultaneously with the criminal investigation in order to trace the material benefit connected to the criminal activity in question. Competences in financial investigations are often shared amongst different state authorities (e.g. law enforcement or the judiciary) at different stages of the procedure – the national framework should enable efficient cooperation amongst them to allow for an effective undertaking of the investigations. A significant role in the procedure is also taken by the Financial Intelligence Unit, which has at its disposal significant financial intelligence information.
Key elements to ensure effectiveness of financial investigations are the attribution of sufficient powers to competent authorities (such as access to data, including banking data, and the ability to apply special investigative powers, for example undercover operations, secret observation, etc., by law enforcement authorities). An additional fundamental element is also the fact that, due to the increasingly international nature of criminal activities, financial investigations should be conducted in a manner. The respective authorities should have appropriate powers in this regard to take into consideration the trans-border aspect and allow for sharing of information, as well as for the undertaking of joint actions.
Given the complexity of the issue, in order to implement financial investigations on a systematic basis, it is necessary to ensure the development of sufficient expertise amongst the involved authorities and their staff, as well as to provide adequate resources for their undertaking in practice.
For further documents relevant for this matter, please refer to the section Confiscation and asset recovery.