ECJ dismisses fraud directive dissenters

The European Court of Justice (ECJ) has rejected an attempt by Belgian bar associations to declare an EU money laundering directive illegal.

Under the 2001 Money Laundering Directive, lawyers and notaries must inform law enforcement officials if they suspect clients have been involved in money laundering. The directive relates to any company or individual involved in financial or real estate transactions.

Four Belgian bar associations claimed the directive is illegal because it breaks basic EU rights to fair trials. They turned to the ECJ to call for the requirement to be scrapped.

However, the court disagreed. In its ruling it said: “When a lawyer is called upon for assistance in defending a client or in representing him before the court… that lawyer is exempt from the obligations of information and cooperation, regardless of whether the information has been received or obtained before, during or after the proceedings.”