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Tackling Criminal Finances: Anti-Money Laundering in Bulgaria
 
Money laundering (ML) and other financial crimes are generally linked to different predicate offences by organized crime groups (most often with regards to traffic of narcotics and human beings, prostitution, weapons, computer crimes, etc.). Combating and investigating money laundering thus requires a systematic approach to collection and analysis of financial information for the activities of organized crime groups, as well as broader application and understanding of the legal framework, and substantiation of the existing capacity within the relevant law enforcement structures. Those were part of the overall conclusions during a Round Table, organized by the Center for the Study of Democracy on 14 July 2016.

The participants, among which representatives of General Directorate National Police, the State Agency for National Security (SANS), the Commission for Forfeiture of Illegally Acquired Assets, and the Basel Institute on Governance, discussed Bulgaria`s recent and historical developments in the domains of investigating and combating money laundering. The latest report from the Committee on the Evaluation of Anti-Money Laundering Measures and the Financing of Terrorism (MONEYVAL) at the Council of Europe assessed the country positively, especially when concerning the existing legal and institutional anti-money laundering (AML) framework.

The Bulgarian legislation is in line with the majority of the European and international norms but lack of effectiveness from its practical application leads to little tangible results. During the past several years there is a gradual increase in the number of the money laundering signals, sent to the Specialized Administrative Directorate "Financial Intelligence" at SANS. The volume of the new and observed pre-trial proceedings has also increased, as well as has the number of persons standing trial on ML charges. The relative share of effective sentences for ML however continues to be insignificant when compared to other types of crime. For instance in 2015 the number of persons with enforced effective sentence for drug trafficking was 444 and for tax-related crimes – 88. In the meantime, the same number for ML stood at only 4.

It is true that no universal solution exist for increasing the ML prevention and investigation effectiveness. Critical however are the presence of institutional capacity, including appropriate funding and qualified human resources. Intra-institutional cooperation on every level and international collaboration with foreign organizations and intelligence units are also key elements for establishing a solid track record when it comes to ALM and the forfeiture of the illegally obtained assets. Connected to this is also the requirement for establishing an effective organization and structuring of the related national bodies, with the aim of avoiding any duplication of functions, as well as of tackling the rise of destructive and artificially created cross-institutional competition. Last but not least, the Round Table participants agreed that the procedures leading to confiscation of illegally obtained assets should start as early as possible and go in parallel with (not after the conclusion of) the criminal proceedings.

Agenda (Adobe PDF, 146 KB)
 
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