Lunch-debate on the fight against money laundering – 14 October 2015

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On Wednesday 14 October 2015, the CNUE held a lunch-debate in its offices on “The legal professions’ involvement in the fight against money laundering”. This is a particularly topical subject with the recent adoption, on 20 May 2015, of the Fourth Directive on the prevention of the use of the financial system for the purpose of money laundering and terrorist financing, in addition to a regulation on information accompanying transfers of funds.

Before an audience made up of representatives of the European institutions and the Member States, the European notariat, through the voice of its president, Mr Jean Tarrade, took the opportunity to promote its contribution in the fight against financial crime. Notaries being at the centre of the legal system for real estate transactions and company acts, which are among the most significant channels for money laundering operations, they are directly concerned by the provisions of the fourth directive and its transposition at national level.

President Tarrade recalled the obligation for notaries to report their suspicions to the competent government bodies for any transaction that could be linked to money laundering. For France, he stressed that notaries were the primary contributors from the non-financial sector in terms of declarations, representing 42% of the reports received by Tracfin. A representative of the CTIF, the Belgian equivalent of Tracfin, also participated in the lunch-debate and congratulated the notariat for its excellent cooperation: the number of declarations of suspicion rose from 587 in 2012 to 1373 in 2014.

President Tarrade then highlighted the Spanish notariat’s excellent work on the subject. The Spanish notariat has created a centralised body for the prevention of money laundering which has a remit to strengthen and channel notaries’ cooperation with the judicial, police and administrative authorities.

Since January 2014, Spanish notaries have been obliged to input information to a database managed by the General Council of the Spanish notariat. This information is available to the authorities competent for conducting investigations: the police, the prosecution service, customs, etc. The information is also processed in the database of beneficial owners developed by the Spanish Ministry of Justice. The computerised processing of data combined with the notary’s involvement in the transfer of ownership of the shares of limited liability companies – which represent more than 93% of all trading companies in Spain – enable the effective tracking of the chain of transfers of share ownership from the moment companies are incorporated.

Furthermore, the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) has not got this wrong, since in its 2014 report evaluating the anti-money laundering system in Spain, it underlines the Spanish notariat’s action as an example of ‘best practice’ to identify the beneficial ownership of a company.

Further to Mr Tarrade’s speech, the participants had the honour of welcoming Ms Kallina Simeonoff, Company Law and Corporate Governance Desk Officer at the European Commission’s DG Justice. Ms Simeonoff elaborated in detail on the various provisions of the fourth directive and its transposition underway in the Member States. Her speech was followed by exchanges with the audience, during which she was asked about the necessary coherence for the Commission between its requirements regarding the fight against money laundering and its proposal for a single-member company, the aim of which is to facilitate the creation of companies across Europe, electronically and with a minimum capital of 1 euro, without a real identity check of the founder.

Ms Laura Heuvinck, representative of Anti-Money Laundering Europe (AMLE), a public/private sector forum for discussions with the European institutions on financial crime issues, then presented her organisation to the participants and elaborated on the challenges to come and the gaps to fill with respect to the fight against money laundering at European level. For further information on the AMLE: http://www.amleurope.com/