EU Policy. Lawmakers close in on deal to tackle football’s dirty money

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The EU is on the cusp of agreeing new anti-money laundering curbs for major football clubs, cash payments and the super-rich.

Though negotiations on the anti-money laundering regulation foundered in December, lawmakers and governments are poised to now extend its reach, after global standard-setters drew attention to the large and often unexplained flows of money flowing through international football.

A meeting to be held Wednesday evening, known as a trilogue, is likely to finalise the bloc’s new anti-money laundering regulation, two sources with knowledge of the talks told Euronews, meaning it could be on the statute book in time for June European elections.

Existing anti-money laundering laws require obliged entities such as banks and real estate agents to do background checks on their customers.

An extension to the football sector “would be applied only to the riskiest transactions,” such as those with investors, agents and sponsors, said a paper prepared by the Belgian government, currently chairing intergovernmental talks on the law, dated 6 January and seen by Euronews.

That suggests ordinary fans wouldn’t need to have their ID approved to buy a season ticket.

It’s still unclear whether football agents would also be obliged entities, and whether member states can exempt teams whose financial, cross-border or league status suggests they’re lower risk.

The new rules, which must be jointly agreed by lawmakers and member states who meet in the EU’s Council, are also controversially set to ban cash transactions of over €10,000 – despite the European Parliament pushing for a lower €7,000 limit.

But MEPs may get their way in a bid to impose extra checks on the super-rich.

The high net worth rules shouldn’t mean “stigmatising customers merely on the basis of their wealth,” the Belgian paper said, but they would mean banks and trust providers having to verify the source of funds when they offer personalised investment management services to any client with more than €5 million in assets.

The overhaul of EU anti-money laundering rules follows a string of scandals, including the processing of dirty Russian funds at Danske Bank. 

The football sector has been particularly prone to scandals, and oligarch Roman Abramovich was forced to sell Chelsea FC after being sanctioned for his supposed ties to Vladimir Putin.

Even if a deal is agreed on Wednesday, the bloc still hasn’t figured out where to site a new anti-money laundering agency that will supervise 40 major banks. 

Hearings among the nine cities bidding to host it, including Frankfurt, Paris, Madrid and Rome, are set to take place in the week beginning 29 January.

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