EU adopts new measures for wealth confiscation, including crypto assets

The EU justice ministers agreed on the draft directive concerning wealth confiscation. New regulations provide authorities with more powers to seize property, including crypto assets.

Crypto asset seizure

The European Union has granted itself new privileges concerning wealth confiscation, including crypto assets. The EU justice ministers accepted a draft directive on asset recovery and confiscation, titled “Proposal for a Directive of the European Parliament and of the Council on asset recovery and confiscation”. News regulations establish minimum criteria for tracing, identifying, freezing, confiscating, and managing criminal assets. The declared aim is to better equip member states in combating organized crime and cutting criminals off from their illegal sources of income.

The proposed rules will cover a broad range of offenses, including violations of sanctions. People or businesses profiting from dealings with individuals or legal entities listed under the EU sanctions will face asset seizures akin to those targeting human traffickers and drug cartels. The new law also obligates member states to have qualified personnel and adequate financial, technical, and technological resources in place to properly deal with tracing, freezing, and handling seized crime profits.

New regulations give the EU enhanced powers to recover a wide range of assets, including cryptocurrency, which has been directly referred to in the document. They also significantly facilitate cross-border cooperation among so-called asset recovery offices (ARO) – national contact points for EU-wide tracing of crime-derived assets – promoting enhanced information sharing between member states. To support AROs in their tasks, the directive requires member state governments to provide the contact points with immediate and direct access to relevant national databases and registers.

One of the most controversial parts of the draft are the articles 16 and 24, which concern confiscating unexplained wealth and remedies. Ministers agree with “the substance of the provisions,” but they decided that further adjustments are necessary to keep the rules aligned with national legal systems. In short, articles set new regulations for seizing assets based on alleged involvement in organized crime, even without a criminal conviction. The court is authorized to rule on the confiscation if it is convinced that the assets come from illegal activity.

After agreeing on the directive, the European Council will begin negotiations with the European Parliament to decide on the final version of the act. Once member states adopt the directive, they will have three years to bring it into effect.