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EU states still divided over money laundering reform - sources

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EU states still divided over money laundering reform - sources
FILE PHOTO: European Union flags flutter outside the EU Commission headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, March 8, 2018. REUTERS/Yves Herman/File Photo   -   Copyright  Yves Herman(Reuters)
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BRUSSELS (Reuters) – European Union states are still divided over an overhaul of rules for the supervision of banks against money laundering, two EU sources said on Wednesday.

EU confidential documents show countries had agreed a preliminary common stance on the reform proposed by the European Commission in September which would give more powers to the European Banking Authority (EBA) to counter financial crime.

But one EU source said states were still divided on this issue and it was unclear whether they could reach a deal by the next meeting of EU finance ministers scheduled on Dec. 4.

A second source said there was no preliminary deal and talks will be held on the issue at a meeting of EU envoys next week.

If the new rules are not adopted before EU elections in May, they risk being shelved. A deal among EU states must be followed by a compromise with the EU Parliament in a process that usually takes several weeks.

Under the Commission’s proposal, the EBA would be given new powers to force national supervisors to investigate cases of suspected breaches of rules to prevent money laundering.

In exceptional cases, when national supervisors do not act within set deadlines, the EBA could take measures against a bank.

At a closed-door meeting in September, the minutes of which have been reviewed by Reuters, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Sweden and Finland were among EU states that urged not to act “prematurely” on the Commission’s proposed overhaul.

The reform does not address loopholes that give states large discretion on imposing sanctions. Nor does it create a dedicated agency to counter money laundering at the EU or euro zone level, as proposed by the European Central Bank.

In addition to the supervision reform, EU states are discussing a plan expected to be finalised in December that lists non-legislative actions to be taken over the coming months to prevent and counter money laundering.

The action plan, of which Reuters has seen a preliminary draft, mandates the European Central Bank and the Commission to review by mid-2019 recent money laundering cases at EU banks.

Some EU states that are more opposed to the reform are pushing for introducing legislative changes only after the review is completed, a third EU source said.

(Reporting by Francesco Guarascio; Editing by Peter Graff)

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