“The United Nations, Interpol and Europol report a growing convergence between organized crime and terrorism,” said in 2018 in the explanatory memorandum to the amendment of the EU directive on money laundering capital, and further: “Preventing the use of money laundering and terrorist financing is an integral part of any strategy to deal with this threat. “
Thus, European politicians are aware of the great dangers of money laundering for democracy and the rule of law. But what exactly do the German parties want to do when they come to power in the Bundestag elections in September? A Brief Overview: If you believe in the FDP’s election platform, then the issue of money laundering is not worth mentioning. There is no correspondence in the text, not even for the term “financial crime”. It seems just as empty in the AfD program.
The CDU / CSU calls for a “reversal of the burden of proof”. Suspected criminals would have to prove that they earned their money legally, otherwise it will be confiscated. But what is the credibility of this request if there had been enough opportunities in the last 15 years to implement this measure, which has been in practice in Italy against the Mafia since the 1980s? Expertise in this area has existed for a long time: as early as 1986, the Federal Criminal Police Office recommended that the burden of proof be reversed accordingly. Nothing happened or later.
In the future program, the SPD calls for more powers for the financial supervisory authority Bafin, which played an inglorious role in the Wirecard scandal. At the same time, Federal Finance Minister Olaf Scholz (SPD), responsible for Bafin and the fight against money laundering, has refused to ban cash real estate payments over the years, although experts have long warned against this gateway for money laundering (interview). Only Bündnis90 / Die Grünen and Die Linke tackle the problem more seriously in their programs.
The ignorance of many German federal governments in the fight against illegal financial flows is now well documented. In 2020, the Federal Audit Office ruled in two reports that the fight against money laundering in this country did not meet legal requirements. There was a lack of supervisory staff and the necessary access rights to police data. A few weeks ago, the European Court of Auditors did the same with its special report, which made it clear that the precise risk analysis of 2018 was not really taken seriously across the EU: the European Court of Auditors attested that there were too few staff in control authorities, sometimes filled with political influences, language problems with the international exchange of information and insufficient implementation of legal requirements.
“Germany is on the blacklist of countries at risk of money laundering.”
The fight against money laundering is a matter of European law. EU Member States must transpose the relevant directive into their national law. In doing so, they have a margin of appreciation, which has also been used extensively. Over the past 30 years, as long as the EU Anti-Money Laundering Directive existed, the European Commission has initiated around 100 infringement procedures because EU Member States failed to fully implement the laws. In 2012, the federal government had to admit that it had not fully implemented the Money Laundering Directive since its introduction in 1991, that is, for 21 years. In recent years, too, there have been repeated reprimands from Brussels to Berlin. The incumbent European Commission is now proposing to set up an EU central supervisory authority to combat money laundering, and the rules are to be set in an EU regulation in the future. which removes a margin of maneuver from the Member States in terms of implementation.
In a recent study, the anti-corruption organization Transparency Germany confirmed that Germany has a huge money laundering problem. “Germany is blacklisted as a country at risk for money laundering and is unlikely to pass the current FATF exam,” said Christoph Trautvetter, study author and academic advisor for the Tax Justice Network.
The highest international body against money laundering, the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), is currently reviewing the effectiveness of responsible authorities in Germany. Experts expect a bad mark. As early as 2010, the result of the check was catastrophic. The inspectors will also deal with the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU). Reports of money laundering suspicions arrive there for review. The authority has been part of customs since 2017 and seems quite overwhelmed. The Osnabrück prosecutor’s office even opened investigations against the FIU for obstructing the current sanctions.