The European Parliament’s Civil Liberties Committee on December 12 approved new measures to step up the fight against money laundering and to narrow the scope for organised crime.

MEPs agreed to introduce EU-wide definitions of money laundering related crimes, including practices that are not currently deemed a crime in all EU countries, such as “self-laundering” (where a person who has committed a crime tries to hide the illicit origin of those proceeds).

They also agreed on an EU-wide minimum term of imprisonment of at least two years in cases with aggravating factors, such as organised crime. Where a judge passes the national maximum jail sentence, it would have to be of at least five years.

The aim is to step up cooperation between member states, as the lack of uniform definitions and penalties currently allows criminals to exploit these differences and commit crimes where penalties are lowest.

MEPs added a range of new EU-wide penalties for those convicted of money laundering, as compared to the EU Commission’s proposal. These include barring those convicted from running for public office or holding a position of public servant, banning businesses and other legal persons from signing contracts with public authorities, and confiscating property and other assets.

The legislative resolution was passed with 39 votes in favour and 4 abstentions.

“Today’s vote marks an important milestone in the fight against organised crime at a European level,” said parliament’s rapporteur on the file, Ignazio Corrao (EFDD, IT). “This directive will deprive criminals of their most important asset, money, and it will make it more difficult for criminal organisations to launder the profits of their criminal activities in the legal economy of the EU.

“Parliament also clearly stated that imprisonment cannot be the only penalty and provided for new additional measures such as confiscation or the ban on entering into contracts with public authorities or running for elected offices,” he added.