Home News Criminal Asset Recovery in the EU: Survey conducted by Europol asks ‘Does crime still pay?’

Criminal Asset Recovery in the EU: Survey conducted by Europol asks ‘Does crime still pay?’

by Brian Sims
Europol's headquarters in The Hague

Europol’s headquarters in The Hague

From 2010 to 2014, 2.2% of the estimated proceeds of crime were provisionally seized or frozen, while 1.1% of the criminal profits were finally confiscated at EU level. That’s according to a recent report pieced together by Europol’s Asset Recovery Unit in co-operation with the Asset Recovery Offices of EU Member States.

The first of its kind, this report highlights that the amount of money currently being recovered in the EU is only a small proportion of estimated criminal proceeds. 98.9% of estimated criminal profits are not confiscated and remain at the disposal of criminals. This means that around 50% of all provisionally seized/frozen assets are ultimately confiscated.

This study also estimates that the annual value of provisionally seized/frozen assets in the EU is around EUR 2.4 billion, with about EUR 1.2 billion finally confiscated each year at the EU level.

Cross-border co-operation between law enforcement agencies and Europol in order to trace and identify criminal assets has significantly improved in recent years, with more than 1,000 asset recovery investigations being carried out across the EU in 2015.

Despite this increase and more effective co-operation, the final results in terms of confiscations are still modest, clearly showing that more work needs to be done. For example:

*Strengthening of financial investigations at the national level, in particular in relation to organised crime activities

*Increased investment in resources and training

*Collection of statistical information at central level

*Digitisation of confiscation orders

*Creation of a register for seized/frozen/confiscated assets with information on location and value to enhance the tracing of assets in foreign countries

*Collection of information on court decisions

Nevertheless, EU Member States have shown a “growing interest” in identifying and quantifying the amount of seized and confiscated assets at the EU level, although it’s challenging to give such a comprehensive picture mainly due to the differences found in the organisation and structure of the EU national agencies as well as those between elements of national legislation.

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