Steps to combat financial crime were agreed by EU ministers at a special summit meeting in Tampere, Finland a fortnight ago. But a European Commission official has admitted that aspects of the draft proposal are unclear. They said the proposal will become clearer over the coming months and further work will be undertaken to 'add flesh to the bones.' He added: 'There are clearly terminological problems of defining the profession. The intention is to include external accountants who do not work as employees of a company, and one function would be auditing. 'There will be a need for further discussion with the member states as talks continue, but we are always open to input.' Malcolm Hoskins, compliance partner at Deloitte & Touche, said: 'There are concerns that if the directive visits on auditors obligations to go beyond what they normally do as accountants or auditors, then the detail needs looking at. We apply representations across the practice not just with the auditors.' Although the agreement falls short of some expectations the package could be a powerful new weapon in the fight against financial crime. In the words of the Finnish EU president, the EU member states have served notice of their intention to 'trace, freeze, seize and confiscate the proceeds of crime'. EU officials said the key texts were those applying the existing 1990 EU money-laundering directive and the numerous recommendations of the initial Financial Action Taskforce to all offshore centres with special financial legislation. In effect this would remove any legal defence against disclosure of information where this was needed to counter money laundering. Officials agreed that the need to prove criminal intent could mean lengthy legal battles. There would have to be approximation of the laws in the 15 EU states on the precise definition of money laundering. A second important decision was to extend the responsibilities of the European police force Europol into money laundering as a crime in its own right, not simply as an adjunct to other illegal activities. The member states will also be obliged to report to the EC on their arrangements for dealing with dependent countries and indicate where national legislation may have to be tightened. 'We're not saying that all banks and financial institutions in dependent territories should be closed, but we'll want to know where more disclosure may be required,' said an EU council spokesman. There was also support for a UK initiative to create a police task force to co-ordinate the drive against organised crime and open the way for mutual recognition of court judgements throughout the EU. Home secretary Jack Straw and EC president Romano Prodi both expressed satisfaction with the deal.
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