Will France become the stronghold in the fight against dirty money in Europe? In any case, this is the ambition displayed by the government of Elisabeth Borne. Meeting at the Ministry of Finance this Friday, November 16, Bruno Le Maire (Economy) and Secretary of State for European Affairs Laurence Boone defended Paris’s candidacy to host the European Anti-Money Laundering Authority (AMLA, anti-Money Laundering Authority).
In front of an audience of ambassadors, European deputies and key figures of the French administration, the two ministers flexed their muscles to recall the French ambitions. “This application makes a lot of sense and seems essential to me. Our desire is to coordinate actions on a European scale, to circulate information between intelligence services”, insisted the Minister of the Economy Bruno Le Maire. Citing the recent attack by Hamas against Israel, the tenant of Bercy recalled “the need to fight against the financing of terrorism. “There is no democracy possible when money escapes the laws and is used to finance opponents of democracy.”
HAS Added to this are the tracking of Russian financial assets in the context of the war in Ukraine, tax fraud and the laundering of dirty money. The shocking revelations made by European media on the role of Cyprus in the laundering of Russian money are, in fact, pushing the authorities to equip themselves with reinforced surveillance and control bodies. “ Worldwide, the amounts of dirty money are estimated at 5% of global GDP », underlined Laurence Boone. Which represents 5,000 billion dollars. But this is an estimate in the high range according to the International Monetary Fund.
Fierce competition in Europe
On the Old Continent, competition promises to be tough. In total, nine countries applied to receive the seat of the new authority. Among the notable candidates are Frankfurt, where the European Central Bank already has its headquarters, Madrid, Rome and The Hague.
After the Brexit vote in 2016, the capitals had already engaged in a fierce battle to obtain the headquarters of the European banking authority responsible for monitoring players in the sector. In 2019, Paris won against serious competitors. HAS Already at the time, Minister Bruno Le Maire had worked hard to attract this authority. But in the minister’s entourage, we don’t hide “that there are serious candidates facing us”.
The French state is ready to put 15 million euros
Led by the former boss of the financial markets authority (AMF) Robert Ophèle, Paris’ candidacy could benefit from state support of 15 million euros, announced the Minister of the Economy. “Our security is at this price”, explained Bruno Le Maire. Currently looking for savings, the government has said it is ready to make a move. HAS the key, the authority plans to hire 400 people on a site yet to be determined.
To support this French candidacy, the Secretary for European Affairs praised the assets of the French capital. “Paris already hosts the FATF (Financial Action Task Force at the OECD). Installing this new authority will facilitate dialogue with the FATF”, explained the former chief economist of the OECD, used to multilateral discussions. From a human resources point of view, she also pointed out the gaps with France’s neighboring countries. “Today 1,000 agents work in European agencies in Paris compared to 2,000 in Spain or Italy or 5,000 in Germany.”
Three sites on the list in Ile-de-France
As revealed The gallery, a few days ago, France is banking on three sites in the capital to make this application a success. “Two sites are available at La Défense and one could be set up at Gare de Lyon”, explained Robert Ophèle. In total, the surface area should be approximately 10,000 square meters. “ This is a building that will need a high level of security », Underlined the current president of the accounting standards authority. The chosen site will need “flexibility and modularity”he added.
Uncertainties about the calendar
Regarding the date of validation of the file, Bercy did not give details. “The public hearing of the 9 applications must take place, I hope, before the end of the year. Which could make it possible to decide on the location before the end of the mandate of parliament and the commission scheduled for June 2024”, declared Robert Ophèle. Behind the scenes, several sources told The gallery hope for a decision between February and March. And even if this decision were to come to fruition in the first quarter, the installation of this new authority would undoubtedly still take months to come to fruition.