EU Parliament tightens rules on money-laundering, terror finance

Strasbourg (France) (AFP) –


The European Parliament on Thursday tightened rules to prevent money laundering and terrorism financing, partly spurred by a wave of jihadist attacks in Brussels and Paris.

The new rules make it easier to identify owners of so-called letter box companies operating in the European Union and tighten controls on virtual currencies like bitcoin.

The new rules were approved with 574 votes in favour, 13 votes against and 60 abstentions.

The parliament said in a statement the aim was to prevent letter box companies from being used to "launder money, hide wealth and avoid paying taxes."

Such practices hit the headlines in 2015 with the massive leak of the "Panama Papers" which showed how the world's wealthy stashed assets.

The parliament also voted for a measure allowing investigative journalists and non-government organisations to have access to data on beneficial owners of trusts.

Another measure requires virtual currency exchange platforms and custodian wallet providers to apply customer due diligence controls, just like banks.

"These platforms and providers will also have to be registered, as will currency exchanges and cheque cashing offices, and trust or company services providers," it said.

The parliament approved these measures which the European Commission, the EU executive, proposed in July 2016, in the wake of Islamic State attacks in France and Belgium, as well as the Panama Papers leaks.

They are now due to become law in the EU member countries in the 18 months that follow its publication shortly in the official EU register.