Cause and Effect in European Politics and Law

Gambling and Vote Buying To Be Included in the Fight with Organised Crime at EU Level

Zhaneta Kuyumdzhieva, September 30, 2013

On September 17th, the temporary committee of the European Parliament has completed its work, after almost 15 months, on Salvatore Lacolino's report (EPP, Italy) via which the committee recommends legislative measures to counteract crime, money laundering and corruption. The last proposed amendments to the report (totally 392) were complemented and adopted by 29 "in favour", 0 "against" and 8 abstentions. The interest in the document was really strong which predefined the intensive work of the committee to improve the scope of measures against corruption, organised crime and money laundering and, most of all, to take them out at EU level.

As the words of the rapporteur point out: "We need to stand united in the fight against mafias. Today we approved a European framework to fight a European problem. Now it is up to Member States to follow up and bring forward the measures we are proposing here", so the efforts of the entire committee in this project and its very essence were to increase the scope of the legislation pursuing criminal behaviour to make it possible in the period 2014-2019 more, more modern and more lucrative niches for illegal business to be covered.

No crime should be left lucrative

The attack against financial assets of organised crime and its sources of revenues will be of greatest significance. The members of the committee insisted on the member states to immediately apply a ban for people to take part in public tenders or to take management positions if they have a sentence for a crime related to corruption, money laundering or other severe crimes against the public interest. The EU financial interests could be much better protected if the banking secret were removed and tax havens eliminated. From various money laundering schemes - an act that traditionally is associated with organised crime, but nowadays also corruption, tax fraud, tax evasion - the EU loses approximately 1 trillion euros of potential revenues which is around 2000 euros per capita annually.

Legal entities (subsidiary companies of holdings) to be legally responsible for the recovery of public subsidies they received and spent illegally. In this sense, the temporary committee "Invites the Commission to come forward with a legislative proposal setting out the legal liability of legal persons in cases of financial crime and in particular the liability of holdings and parent companies for their subsidiaries; stresses that this proposal should clarify the liability of natural persons for crimes committed by the company, or its subsidiaries, for which they can be held partially or wholly responsible".

Another proposed amendment in the report recommends the "Commission to propose a legislative framework and appropriate measures to combat money laundering linked to betting, in particular sports betting, specifying new offences such as betting-related match fixing and laying down penalties of appropriate severity and supporting monitoring arrangements involving sports federations, associations, online and offline operators and, where necessary, national authorities". Ms Tanja Fajon (S&D, Slovenia) said during the debate on the report on July 10th that the member states have different legal provisions and the judiciaries are not sufficiently efficient in dealing with this issue. Together with Rita Borsellino, a MEP from the same political group (Italy), she recommended the establishment of a European system for authorisation of online betting to enable the following of money flows in the framework of online gambling games in the EU.

The scope of the report definitely expands the concept of "organised crime". In the proposals of the temporary committee there were measures against vote buying (although the "revenues" from it are not material), the illegal activity in the food industry which, for its part, endangers food security, and Rita Borsellino (S&D) called on including another three major topics in the concept of organised crime: traffic of waste; traffic of protected species and art. Another task the members of the temporary committee have put forward is the member states to adopt without further delay national strategies on for cyber security, taking into account that organised crime has started to broadly use the cyber space and its illegal tools. The losses from cyber crimes amount to 290 billion euros for the entire EU.

Removing the barriers for stronger trans-border cooperation

The legal definition of "organised crime" varies among the member states, which impedes the efforts for a coordinated fight against it. It will be essential to articulate a common definition that should cover all the aspects of this phenomenon. On this occasion, Ms Borsellino pointed to the necessity to clarify also the definition of harming the EU economic interests. The trans-border work on bringing organised crime under control in Europe was defined as a "failure" by Mr Newton Dunn (ALDE, UK). According to him, the lack of cooperation and a quality exchange of information dooms the fight against criminal activity. He backed the idea for the creation of a federal European police service that would ensure the necessary cooperation the Europol to gain powers "on the street" not only, as it is now, to collect data.

The example the British MEP from ALDE quoted was about the lack of control which reveals the scale of crime and the EU's vulnerability to fake goods, traffic of people and drugs. According to data he himself revealed, only 3% of the arriving at the Antwerp port containers are being checked by the security services. In this sense is one of the appeals in the report "the Commission and the Member States to step up their maritime cooperation with a view to stamping out trafficking in human beings and the flows of drugs and illegal or counterfeit products across the EU’s internal and external sea borders, which are an entry point in the EU for organised crime elements, is an issue the consideration of which has to continue and calls on Europol, Frontex and the Commission to consider the trends with regard to the external EU borders and their vulnerability".

In the report, the issue of traffic of humans is clearly outlined. The special committee appealed on the member states, which have not yet transposed Directive 2011/36/EC for prevention and fight against human trafficking and protection of its victims, to do so or to undertake steps to create agencies, Internet portals, hotlines and any other effective ways to assist victims. According to data revealed in the document, the overall number of individuals involved in forced labour is 880 000 (1.8 people per 1000 inhabitants), of whom 270 000 (30%) are victims of sexual exploitation related to forced labour, as women are the bigger part in the number of victims in EU.

After the document is presented in October at the European Parliament plenary, the Commission will face tasks the implementation of which will, to a large extent, depend on the member states' determination to undertake coordinated efforts against organised crime. As a number MEPs from the temporary committee stated during the debates, there is no political will among the national governments to ratify agreements and to sign certain decisions.

Drawing a plan against corruption, money laundering and organised crime for the period 2014-2019 will require putting transparency as a major principle in the fight with trans-border crime. As is pointed in Salvatore Lacolino's report, it is "a natural enemy of corruption where crimes begin from" and "high officials or owners of huge wealth who are bearers of privileges and immunity should be required full transparency of their activities". This is not something new nor unusual. But it sounds as a good articulation of the Bulgarian dream and is never unnecessary to be recalled.