EU seeks crackdown on pre-paid cards, virtual cash to fight terrorism

Pre-paid cards and virtual currencies should be less easy to use anonymously, the European Union's executive said Tuesday, as it unveiled new proposals to crack down on terrorist financing.

Stepping up the fight against terrorism has taken on new urgency in the EU following deadly attacks in Paris last year and in Brussels this year.

"Today's proposals will help national authorities to track down people who hide their finances in order to commit crimes such as terrorism," European Commission Vice President Frans Timmermans said in a statement.

Pre-paid cards are considered beneficial for financially vulnerable people because money can be loaded onto them without credit checks, but their anonymity also presents risks. The Paris attackers are believed to have used such cards.

The commission on Tuesday proposed several measures to curb anonymous payments through pre-paid cards, for instance requiring their users to be identified from a threshold as low as 150 euros (167 dollars) and introducing stricter provisions for cards used online.

There have also been concerns that terrorist groups may be using virtual currencies such as bitcoins, which are largely unregulated in the 28-country EU.

The commission proposed to apply existing EU anti-money-laundering rules to virtual currency platforms, so that people trading on them can be more easily identified.

The commission additionally wants more safeguards for financial flows from high-risk countries, as well as more powers and data access for authorities that work on spotting suspicious transactions.

As part of the same package of measures, the Brussels institution proposed Tuesday to make public some information contained in company-ownership registers - a move that Timmermans predicted will also be "a strong deterrent for potential tax evaders."

EU efforts to crack down on tax dodging have gained momentum after the Panama Papers scandal. The commission said it is considering further measures, including stepping up oversight on tax advisors and better protecting whistle-blowers.

Last update: Tue, 05/07/2016 - 20:26

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