Money laundering is a technical word, too abstract for the competent associations. Anyone looking for money laundering on the internet will find symbolic images in particular: dollar bills in the washing machine, euro bills on the clothesline. As if it was really about cleaning up “dirty” money. The real images remain hidden behind the term and behind the billions that criminals in Germany are estimated to launder every year. Of course, there is a huge problem with money laundering control in Germany, but is there anything worse?
The real images of money laundering are: human trafficking and forced prostitution, heroin addiction, theft and extortion, theft of works of art, illegal arms sales and the financing of terrorism. It is estimated that two-thirds of all crimes are committed primarily for the purpose of getting rich. Money laundering is an essential vehicle of crime, it primarily allows funds obtained by crime to be made available. And Germany is a playground for criminals: for the Mafia, for rocker gangs and clans, for corrupt construction contractors and financiers, for underworld adventurers and extremely wealthy gang leaders.
More recently, the federal government’s response to a request from the left in the Bundestag showed that 324 financial institutions are not subject to any checks under the Money Laundering Act. A few months ago, the Federal Audit Office came to the conclusion in a classified report that there was “no effective control of money laundering” in Germany. This again particularly affects the non-financial sector – car dealers, jewelers, the art market, gambling halls or other property dealers. And the state does not even just watch: according to the Court of Auditors, it does not even have the capacity to watch.
Dysfunctional financial intelligence unit
The situation is chaotic: the Länder are responsible for monitoring the non-financial sector. He then becomes wildly confused; sometimes one ministry is responsible, then again district governments and, elsewhere, local police authorities. The fight against money laundering often ends in Germany at the border of a federal state. And at the federal level, things aren’t much better with the dysfunctional Customs Financial Intelligence Unit. It centrally collects all reports of suspected money laundering and – according to theory – is supposed to pass them on quickly and efficiently to the relevant police and prosecution services.
Almost all of these reports come from banks. And while many are totally worthless, some of them may hold the crucial clue of a major scandal. As in the Wirecard case, in which Commerzbank and other institutes warned from the start of suspicious transaction reports against questionable cash flows, behind which investigators now suspect most of the raid carried out by former responsible for Wirecard and their partners, with whom they excluded banks, investors and their own business should have. The warnings only reached investigators when the company was already bankrupt.
In recent years, the European Commission has repeatedly reprimanded Germany for failing to adequately implement EU directives on money laundering. On Tuesday, the Commission is now presenting a legislative initiative aimed at creating a new anti-money laundering authority at European level. A central office that better links national money laundering supervisory authorities, improves information exchange and monitors Member State authorities. This is an important and urgent step. For too often it has been shown how easily money launderers can play the lax controls of EU states against each other in order to launder billions.
Germany has an obligation here. As the most powerful economic nation in the EU, the Federal Republic can no longer afford to neglect this issue any further. The political failure in this area is as huge as it is embarrassing. The next federal government must set other priorities here. And to start, he would do well to support the ceiling of 10,000 euros for cash transactions proposed by the European Commission.