LAWYERS across the EU will be able to warn their clients that they are about to tip off law enforcement authorities over concerns that they are handling dirty money
According to the final shape of long-debated reforms to the European Money Laundering Directive, client confidentiality will also be assured where lawyers are ascertaining a client's legal position or are representing them in legal proceedings, unless the lawyer knows that legal advice is sought for money laundering purposes. The compromise position, which was struck in a conciliation committee linking the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers, will nevertheless extend to the legal profession the duty under EU law to keep detailed client records and demand identification. Until now, the directive only applied under European law to financial institutions. The new directive also covers illicit drugs money. Indeed, its scope includes the proceeds of all serious crime. The directive will now be extended to external accountants and auditors, real estate agents, notaries, lawyers, dealers in high-value goods (eg precious stones or works of art), auctioneers, transporters of funds, casinos and "supervisory bodies overseeing the stock and financial markets". EU Internal Market Commissioner Frits Bolkestein said: "The new directive will be a crucially important measure in the fight against the financing of terrorism and organised crime." The deal struck in the conciliation committee has to be confirmed by the parliament and the council, but their agreement is regarded as a formality.