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The EU’s New Anti-Money Laundering Authority (AMLA): Key Takeaways

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The European Union’s (EU) long standing goal of harmonizing the fight against money laundering across Europe took another important step forward on July 20th 2021. Having largely relied on a host of directives and other legal measures, the European Commission presented plans to create a central EU authority to combat money laundering, the Anti-Money Laundering Authority (AMLA).

While the responsibility for monitoring and combating money laundering will remain in the hands of the member states, the AMLA will monitor, support and coordinate the application of EU regulations across the continent. According to the Commission’s proposal, the AMLA is to be given far-reaching powers.

Direct supervisory role over large financial institutions

The right to directly supervise large and, from the authority’s point of view, particularly risky financial institutions stands out. According to the plans, if the need for urgent action on a money laundering issue comes to light, the AMLA will be entitled to carry out immediate inspections and order administrative action at these institutions. This includes the option to impose sanctions.

Coordination of national money laundering authorities

The AMLA is also expected to oversee the financial sector supervisory authorities of the individual member states and coordinate their activities on a Europe-wide basis.

With regard to the Financial Intelligence Units (FIU) existing in the member states, the AMLA will assume a supporting function. This includes conducting joint anti-money laundering investigations and sharing technical expertise in areas such as the use of artificial intelligence, IT solutions and best practices for identifying suspicious transactions.

New structure to be in place by 2024

According to the Commission’s plans, the AMLA is to be established by 2023 and commence its activities in the following year. While its location has yet to be determined, the city of Vienna is considered the most likely choice.

In order to carry out its tasks, the AMLA will, on the basis of the Commission’s proposal, take over the administration of the AML/CFT database managed by the European Central Bank, and the secure communications network, currently still operated by Europol. In the medium term, the AMLA is likely to have 250 staff.

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