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Europe’s new AML boss wants ‘fully independent, resourced’ supervisor for the bloc

By Dan Byrne for AMLi

Anti-money laundering supervision needs an EU-level authority, incoming Financial Services Commissioner Mairead McGuinness said today (Fri).

The MEP and Commissioner designate gave her endorsement to the much-discussed centralised supervisory body which, it’s proposed, will have the power to monitor and investigate instances of money laundering across the bloc.

McGuinness said that strict enforcement of rules for detecting money laundering was “vital,” and she would not shy away from opening new infringement proceedings in 2021, if the Parliament confirms her as Commissioner.

She mentioned issues such as customer due diligence, beneficial ownership and the scope of applicability for AML regulations as some areas which may need reform through a full harmonisation across the EU.

She also highlighted an AML study completed by the Council of Europe, which she plans to incorporate into a Commission assessment of AML directives, due in 2022. 

McGuinness stressed the necessity for an AML supervisor which was, “fully independent, with the necessary resources, capable of working directly with national supervisors to make sure that scandals such as those we have seen recently do not happen again.”

The scandals she spoke of have tied several prominent European banks to financial crimes worth billions of euro over the past two decades.

The most notable of these came with the FinCEN files leak in September, which alleged that banks across the world had been aware of, but did little to stop, money being laundered through their channels by global criminal organisations.

The EU financial crime supervisor is proposed to have significant powers vested to it to make investigations into this kind of activity, and potentially issue sanctions and other punitive measures also.

It received a broad welcome at a European Commission AML hearing on Wednesday, but the limits of the supervisory-body’s powers, specifically in relation to how it operates alongside national financial watchdogs, remains for debate.

McGuinness delivered the remarks at a European Parliament hearing on her suitability for the role as EU Commissioner. She has been nominated for the portfolio of Financial Services, Financial Stability and the Capital Markets Union.

The hearing is a customary procedure for any newcomer to the Commission and follows her nomination by Commission President Ursula Von Der Leyen, after the previous Irish delegate resigned in August.   

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