- The Council of the European Union has approved robust new measures aimed at freezing and confiscating ‘unexplained assets’, with a broad definition that encompasses crypto assets.
- The new rules will require owners of ‘unexplained assets’ to provide proof of legal acquisition. Failure to do so could result in property seizure.
In a move designed to toughen its approach to wealth confiscation, the Council of the European Union has given its consent to wide-ranging measures for freezing and confiscating ‘unexplained assets’. This change was necessitated due to the outdated existing framework, which needed modernization to effectively combat financial crimes.
Broadening the Scope of Asset Seizure
Under the new directive titled, “Proposal for a Directive of the European Parliament and of the Council on asset recovery and confiscation”, a broad interpretation of ‘property’ has been defined to ensure consistency across the EU. This expanded definition notably includes ‘crypto assets’— a clear indication of the council’s commitment to tackling criminal activities in the burgeoning blockchain and cryptocurrency sector.
The directive provides an unambiguous stand on asset seizure—it can proceed even if the asset’s owner fails to provide evidence of legal acquisition, or if there are connections between the owner and individuals involved with criminal organizations.
In a move to ensure that criminal proceeds do not escape the dragnet, owners of ‘unexplained assets’ are now compelled to demonstrate that their property’s value is not ‘significantly disproportionate’ to their lawful income. Moreover, they are required to prove the absence of any illicit source.
In considering the legality of an asset, national courts are advised to take into account
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“all relevant circumstances of the case, including the available evidence and specific facts.”
Circumstances might include the substantial disproportion between property value and lawful income, the lack of a plausible legal source of the property, and the owner’s associations with criminal organizations.
The Council’s approval signals the commencement of negotiations with the European Parliament to finalize the legal text of this directive. Once ratified by member states, EU countries will be given a three-year timeframe to implement the directive, reinforcing the Council’s robust stance against financial crime and demonstrating the growing regulatory focus on crypto assets.
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