In a press release issued by the French Ministry of the Interior, “on July 1, 2019, the Ministry of the Interior created within the central directorate of the judicial police a sub-directorate for combating financial crime.” This Sous-Direction de al Lutte contre la Criminalite Financiere (SDLCF) will envelope four existing agencies and be staffed with over 700 civil servants. The goal, according to French Authorities, is to enhance the National Police’s efforts against financial crimes by pooling and streamlining ministerial resources. Similar to Interpol, the SDLCF, will also collaborate with other national police forces to investigate and fight financial crimes.
However, the French Government is not the only leadership body to recently acknowledge the need for a police force to investigate financial crime. In a meeting of the European Parliament in early 2019, the Special Committee on Financial Crimes, Tax Evasion, and Tax Avoidance adopted multiple recommendations focused on financial crimes and tax evasion/avoidance that included the directive to “start work immediately on a proposal for a European financial police force and an EU financial intelligence unit.” The recommendations went on to instruct the creation of an EU anti-money laundering watchdog amongst other initiatives and findings.
It must be acknowledged that the European Union is not without formal bodies that serve the bloc in law enforcement (Europol), financial intelligence (FIU), or even providing fiscal oversight (European Central Bank). However, these bodies largely operate to coordinate and support these functions for the national equivalents of the member states. The inherent separation in the monitoring, investigation and prosecution of financial crimes creates opportunities for gaps, redundancies and other inefficiencies in anti-money laundering (AML) and counter-terrorism financing (CFT) investigations.
In the changing landscape of financial crimes, a decentralized regulatory model does more to inhibit effective AML compliance than enhance. France’s creation of the SDLCF was motived by the realization that multiple agencies were often investigating the same matter with no inter-departmental communication. For the EU, recent banks’ scandals and members being characterized as tax havens, calls to question the efficacy of the current governance structure. A successful AML program boasts a strong tone at the top. While, according to Reuters, EU members have so far ignored the European Central Bank’s petition to create a formal financial watchdog out of fear in the loss of national competency; perhaps, it is time for the EU, like France, to centralize their financial crime fighting efforts.
French officials hope to streamline their investigations of money laundering and other profit-driven crimes by placing them under the supervision of a single agency, the Anti-Financial Crimes Sub-directorate, or SDLCF, which is set to begin full operations in the first half of 2020.