The money only had to cross the border, then the most important was done. Millions of people have flocked to Tallinn, especially from Russia. Money from unclear sources ended up in the accounts of a Danish bank in Estonia, an EU member state. Millions turned into billions, money moved further around the world, until at some point no one could see the origin of the questionable transfers. More than 200 billion euros have thus been laundered via Danske Bank accounts. The scandal was only revealed in 2018. The biggest money laundering case to date in the EU has shown like no other how easy it is for experienced criminals to overturn national rules against the money laundering in the EU. And how important pent-up demand is in terms of the fight against money laundering.
To prevent cases like the Danske Bank scandal from happening again in the future, the European Commission has now launched a broad set of laws against money laundering and terrorist financing. The plans officially presented on Tuesday should at least make it much more difficult to launder embezzled, extorted or stolen money in the EU. Among other things, the plans provide for a new anti-money laundering authority to monitor and coordinate the fight against money laundering across Europe, an upper limit for cash payments of 10,000 euros and stricter rules for the processing of cryptocurrencies.
The most important innovation: In the future, legislative measures against money laundering in the international community must be regulated by ordinance. Then, for the first time, uniform EU-wide rules will apply which, unlike directives, leave Member States no latitude when transposing them into national law. The European Commission has revised the previous anti-money laundering directive five times. Infringement procedures were regular because some Member States had not implemented them adequately. Brussels had repeatedly testified that Germany was negligent on this issue. However, it was still a question of the wording of the laws and not of the ineffectiveness of the fight against money laundering, criticizes Sven Giegold, member of the Greens in the European Parliament, who also welcomes the legislative initiative of the Commission.
Most EU countries already have upper limits for cash payments
Its core also includes its own EU anti-money laundering authority called AMLA (Anti-Money Laundering Authority), to be established by 2024 and to network national anti-money laundering authorities. . The European Commission mainly targets money laundering cases in the financial sector. So far, national agencies have checked whether banks are properly prepared for clients who wish to inject black money or profits from covert transactions into the legal financial cycle. In Germany, Bafin is responsible for this. In turn, financial institutions report suspicions of money laundering to the Customs Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU). Responsibilities differ greatly between Member States. The Danske case and other scandals also included the realization that national supervisors were sometimes unable to deal with large-scale money laundering in the financial system.
After its establishment, the new EU authority will be able to directly supervise large financial groups, examine institutes on the spot and impose fines of up to ten million euros. National supervisors remain responsible for small banks, but their work must be monitored by the EU authority. As it stands, it is expected to start its direct surveillance activities in early 2026, although the timing depends on how quickly the European Council and the European Parliament approve the Commission’s plans. The question of where the authority should be based is also still open – representatives of the German financial industry are already promoting Frankfurt. The decisions are not expected until next year.
In Germany, a political discussion is probably needed on one detail of the vast legislative package: the cash payment limit of 10,000 euros. So far, there is “no solid scientific evidence that the goal of combating money laundering can be achieved with upper limits for cash payments,” said Johannes Beermann, board member of administration of the Bundesbank, the press agency dpa. Cash transactions are currently unlimited in Germany. In most European countries, however, the borders already apply – in Greece, for example, the limit is already 500 euros.