The Council of the EU, following a provisional agreement with the European Parliament, agreed on June 20 new rules concerning the mutual recognition of freezing and confiscation orders.
The new regulation aims to ensure the effective freezing and confiscation of criminal assets across the EU. This will contribute to making the EU more secure by combating the financing of crime, including terrorist activities, a statement said.
“We are today sending a strong signal: crime will no longer pay. Criminals will no longer be able to exploit loopholes within the EU to move their assets and avoid freezing or confiscation orders. It will also help us prevent that those funds are used to finance new criminal activities, including terrorism,” said Tsetska Tsacheva, Bulgarian Minister of Justice, whose country currently holds the rotating Presidency of the Council of the EU.
The main features of the new rules as agreed by both institutions include a single regulation covering freezing and confiscation orders, directly applicable in the EU. This will resolve the issues linked to the implementation of the existing instruments, which have led to insufficient mutual recognition, the statement said.
Another main feature is the general principle of mutual recognition, meaning that all judicial decisions in criminal matters taken in one EU country will normally be directly recognised and, enforced by another member state. The regulation only sets out a limited number of grounds for non-recognition and non-execution. The institutions agreed on the inclusion of a ground for non-recognition based on fundamental rights but under very strict conditions.
The features include a wide scope of types of confiscation in criminal matters such as value based confiscation and non-conviction based confiscation, including certain systems of preventive confiscation, provided that there is a link to a criminal offence.
There will be standard certificates and procedures to allow for speedy and efficient freezing and confiscation actions.
There also will be a deadline of 45 days for the recognition of a confiscation order and in urgent case a deadline of 48 hours for the recognition and 48 hours for the execution of freezing orders. Those limits can be postponed under strict conditions detailed in the regulation.
Another main feature is provisions to ensure that victims’ rights to compensation and restitution are respected in cross-border cases.
After confirmation of the political agreement by the European Parliament, the text will undergo linguistic revision and subsequently be formally adopted by the two institutions, the statement said. The new rules will apply 24 months after the entry into force of the regulation.