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ArticlesMay 24, 20240

Recovery and confiscation of assets derived from crimes

In the context of strengthening the fight against organized crime and obtaining illegal profits, the Council of the European Union recently adopted a directive that complements the union’s legal framework regarding the confiscation of assets obtained from criminal activities. It is considered that the extremely high revenues generated by serious forms of crime amount to at least 139 billion euros each year, and assets derived from criminal activities pose a significant threat to the integrity of the economy, affecting the rule of law and fundamental human rights. Consequently, the adopted normative act targets a wide range of offenses, such as organized crime, terrorism, human trafficking, and extortion, while instituting a series of judicial, logistical, and organizational measures. However, even though the directive references these crimes, it does not impose an obligation on member states to introduce or maintain any of the offenses covered by the legislative act in question.

Moreover, establishing an efficient asset recovery system involves the swift tracking and identification of tools, as well as assets suspected of criminal origin. These should be subject to freezing to establish a preventive function, and later confiscated within criminal procedures.

Essentially, the directive obliges member states to establish at least one asset recovery office, which will gain access to a wide range of relevant data, such as vehicle registers, commercial databases, or national population registers. Additionally, the union framework extends the possibilities of freezing and confiscating assets derived from crimes even without a criminal conviction, provided there is evidence proving their criminal origin.

Nevertheless, potential harm to victims is not ignored, with emphasis on establishing adequate measures to uphold the rights to compensation and restitution. A concrete application of these measures is the possibility, in certain circumstances, for seized assets to be sold even before definitive confiscation, for instance, if the assets depreciate rapidly or if storage costs are disproportionate to their market value.

Finally, the normative act promotes cross-border cooperation among member states regarding the tracking and confiscation of assets. As a result, member states will have to provide each other with information and assistance to facilitate the confiscation process of assets derived from criminal activities, regardless of the member state in which they are located.

The deadline for complying with the legal requirements established by the directive and transposing them into national law is November 23, 2026.

For further information or any additional inquiries, please do not hesitate to contact us:

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Andreea Bogozi – Compliance Consultant

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