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EU Endorses Tough New Money Laundering Measures - 2001-10-16

In an extraordinary joint meeting in Luxembourg, European Union finance and justice ministers have endorsed tough new measures to cut off financing for terrorism in the wake of last month's attacks in the United States.

A joint meeting of EU finance and justice ministers discussed the issues and in a statement declared support for the new measures. The statement said the European Council, which is made up of heads of state and government, will as soon as possible formally adopt a directive to expand the existing ban on money laundering beyond drug trafficking to include other serious crimes - a reference to terrorism.

The directive also brings lawyers and accountants into the scope of the law. Previously, these groups said client confidentially prevents them from cooperating with authorities in investigations.

Analysts say the European Council is expected to finalize the measure following a meeting of the European parliament next week.

The European commissioner for internal market and taxation, Fritz Bolkestein, hailed the move. In a statement, he said this is a crucially important measure in the fight against the financing of terrorism and organized crime.

He said requirements regarding client identification, record-keeping and reporting of suspicious transactions will be extended to external accountants and auditors, real estate agents, lawyers, and dealers in precious stones and metals.

In addition to the money laundering measure, EU ministers also signed a draft protocol to improve cooperation among member states in the area of fighting economic and financial crime.

The European Union has repeatedly pledged its solid support for the United States in the global war against terrorism. In a summit last month. EU leaders said individual member nations would assist according to their means.