Seizing criminals' assets is a key part of fighting crime, yet only less than 1% of their ill-gotten gains is confiscated. New rules being voted on by the Parliament on 25 February aim to make it easier to freeze and confiscate the proceeds of crime across the EU. This will prevent the money being reinvested in organised crime. We discussed the proposal with report author Monica Luisa Macovei, a Romanian member of the EPP group, after the justice committee approved the plans on 8 May 2013.
What are the key benefits of the proposal? Will it affect national budgets?
National budgets will benefit because money used in criminal activities will be recovered. If we don't do this, this money will be reinvested in organised crime, possibly laundered and lost to the budget. So there will be benefits for national budgets and for the European budget as well. It is simple - people will be richer, not poorer.
How important is it to coordinate efforts between member states and what is the role of the Parliament in this?
Someone can have property in another member state, so these states have to cooperate if this property is to be confiscated. States can already confiscate property after a conviction and we need to strengthen this. But it is very important that we introduce a confiscation which is not a consequence of a criminal conviction, something only a few states practice today.
If assets are produced by criminal activity, the state can prove it without seeking to put a person behind bars. So you don't seek a criminal conviction, only a confiscation of money and that is much more important than just putting someone behind bars and leaving all the dirty money outside.
Some worry that confiscating without a criminal conviction could infringe people's human rights. Are they right to be concerned?
The text of the proposal refers to article 6 of the European Convention of Human Rights, which guarantees a fair trial and it includes all other provisions as well. It will always be a judge and court deciding on a confiscation.