• Tighter deadlines for cross-border freezing and confiscation of assets 
  • Compensating victims will take priority 
  • Currently only 1.1 % of estimated criminal profits in the EU end up being confiscated  

MEPs adopted on Thursday new rules to speed up the freezing and confiscation of criminal assets across the EU.

The new rules, already informally agreed between Parliament’s negotiators and EU ministers in June, will make it quicker and simpler for EU member states to ask each other to freeze criminal assets or confiscate criminal property.

Depriving criminals of their assets is an important tool for fighting organised crime and terrorism. However, according to a 2016 Europol study, currently only an estimated 1.1% of criminal profits are confiscated in the EU.

The new measures include:

  • introduction of deadlines: an EU country that receives a confiscation order from another EU country will have 45 days to execute the order; cross-border freezing orders have to be executed with the same speed and priority as national ones. Authorities will have four days to freeze the assets if the freezing request is urgent,
  • standardised documents: standard certificates and forms will be used to ensure that EU countries act faster and communicate more efficiently,
  • wider scope: where requested, EU countries will be able to confiscate assets from other people connected to the criminal and they can also act in cases where there is no conviction (e.g. if the suspect has fled), and
  • victims’ rights: victims will be the first in line to receive compensation when confiscated assets are distributed.

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Rapporteur Nathalie Griesbeck (ALDE, FR) said: “This tool for mutual recognition of freezing and confiscation orders strengthens European justice. It is fairer for the victims and reinforces our fight against the financing of terrorism. Parliament will be watching closely to ensure that the new rules are implemented fast and effectively.”

Next steps

The regulation was approved by 531 votes to 51, 26 abstentions.

The new rules still require the formal approval of the Council. They will apply 24 months after their entry into force.

These rules form part of a package of measures to strengthen the EU's capacity to fight the financing of terrorism and organised crime. Parliament already approved tighter rules against money laundering and cash flows in September.