PANA Issues Recommendations to European Parliament: Tougher Enforcement, Greater Transparency, Improved Information Sharing and Prohibitions Against Outsourcing of Customer Due Diligence
In the wake of the Panama Papers, the European Parliament (“EP”) formed PANA, a Committee of Inquiry into Money Laundering, Tax Avoidance, and Tax Evasion. We previously wrote about PANA in May when it was examining the role of lawyers in money laundering and tax evasion schemes. After opening their October 19 meeting with a moment of silence to honor the life of Maltese investigative journalist Daphne Coruana Galizia, who recently was killed by a car bomb, PANA approved a draft report and recommendations for review by the EP. The findings and recommendations range from reporting standardization to outsourcing to illicit real estate transactions to attorney-client privilege.
A few themes emerged from the PANA report:
- the European Union (“EU”) has strong law, but lacks vigorous enforcement;
- the EU’s many regulators are stymied by a severe lack of communication, both within nations and between countries;
- beneficial owners (“BOs”) are mostly unknown because regulated entities are not fulfilling their reporting obligations and the BO register is not robust, accessible, or standardized;
- intermediaries, like banks, lawyers, accountants, wealth managers, and other financial institutions, are not living up to their obligations because they are engaging in “creative compliance” and leaving compliance responsibility to third parties.
Based on these findings, PANA recommends:
- uniform definitions and punishments for money laundering and tax-related infractions,
- “automatic exchange of information,” reciprocity, and “Common Reporting Standards” between regulators to facilitate better information sharing,
- the creation of a “publically accessible,” standardized BO register that includes the ultimate beneficial owner (“UBO”),
- the EP pass legislation to “make it illegal to outsource [customer due diligence (“CDD”)] procedures to third parties,”
- adoption of stronger forfeiture laws that allow cross-border confiscation of illegally obtained assets,
- stronger sanctions against banks and other intermediaries that “are knowingly, willfully, and systematically implicated in illegal tax schemes,”
- lawyers should no longer be able to hide behind the attorney-client privilege to escape reporting requirements, like suspicious transaction reports (“STRs”),
- countries devote more resources to fighting money laundering and tax evasion,
- the EP vest more oversight powers in PANA.