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Tuesday, 16 October, 2001, 14:42 GMT 15:42 UK
EU combats terror funding
Banks will be asked to provide suspects' details
The European Union has announced a major crackdown on money-laundering, as ministers meet to discuss anti-terrorism measures in the wake of the 11 September attacks.

We call on the rest of the world - including offshore centres - to implement regulations requiring institutions to report suspicious assets

UK Chancellor Gordon Brown
The new measures will mean that a whole range of professionals - including accountants, estate agents and lawyers - will be required to report any "suspicious transactions" they come across.

Even casino owners and traders in precious stones would have to be on alert.

The plans to tighten the rules have been under discussion for more than two years, but have been given added urgency by the terrorist attacks.

Osama Bin Laden
EU members are trying to track down Bin Laden followers
They will have to be ratified by ministers and the European parliament before taking effect in some 18 months.

"We call on the rest of the world - including offshore centres - to implement regulations requiring institutions to report suspicious assets," said Gordon Brown, Britain's chancellor of the exchequer.

"We should stand shoulder to shoulder to root out the financial lifeblood of terrorism."

The move comes as European ministers of finance, home affairs and justice hold a series of meetings in Luxembourg to discuss how their efforts to combat terrorism are taking shape.

As the war on terror finances is stepped up, ministers are also working on joint ways to:

  • Share information on bank accounts believed to be held by criminals.
  • Take punitive action against states which are not seen as adhering to international norms on combating money-laundering, with the Philippines and the tiny Pacific island of Nauru at the top of the list.
  • Follow up the inquiries into whether the 11 September terrorists also profited from their crimes by investing in key shares before the attacks, and selling them afterwards.
The BBC's Patrick Bartlett in Luxembourg says there has been no conclusive proof that terrorists played the markets, despite strong rumours.

"There is no clear pattern emerging," he said. "It is proving difficult to substantiate the claims."

He says that the sanctions under discussion might include a ban on European banks opening branches in countries suspected of holding funds for terrorists' use.

'Unco-operative' countries

An EU official told the French news agency AFP that the 15 EU states had agreed to impose penalties on third countries considered "particularly unco-operative" in fighting money-laundering.

A total of 19 countries have already been identified as "unco-operative", according to AFP.

Thirteen countries seeking EU membership will also have to adhere to the money-laundering regulations, including Hungary, which is currently on the blacklist of suspect countries. Russia has also been named as problematic.

At a separate meeting this evening, attended only by justice ministers and interior ministers, proposals for an EU-wide definition of terrorism and an EU-wide arrest warrant will be under discussion, but no decisions are expected, a commission spokesman said.

The BBC's Patrick Bartlett
"Within days of the US attacks suspicions were aroused"
Richard Corkhill, Isle of Man Treasury Minister
"We've examined our systems to make sure we don't play a part in funding terrorism"
See also:

16 Oct 01 | Americas
Canada tightens net on terrorism
15 Oct 01 | Business
Conference targets terror funds
28 Sep 01 | Business
Net closes on terror cash
24 Sep 01 | Americas
Bush calls halt to terror funding
24 Sep 01 | Business
Will Bush's asset freeze work?
19 Sep 01 | Business
Following the money trail
18 Sep 01 | Business
Bin Laden 'share gains' probe
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