European Union lawmakers have endorsed new rules to speed up the seizure of dirty cash and increase amounts confiscated across the bloc.

At present, law enforcement agents are able to get hold of only a fraction of illicit earnings – 1.1% (€1.2 billion) of all criminal proceeds in the EU are ever confiscated, according to Europol.

Other challenges include the length of time to seize the assets of money launderers and terror financiers.

Under the new plans, however, Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) want member states who receive a freezing or confiscation order to be bound to execute it within 20 days, as opposed to the 60 days proposed by the European Commission, so that criminals do not have time to move their assets, the European Parliament said in a statement.

The deadline may, however, be postponed, for instance if the confiscation would hurt an on-going criminal investigation.

The rules, which were proposed by the Commission in December 2016 as part of its Action Plan against terrorist financing, will also see member states carry out confiscations for each other even in situations where the assets belong to a third party or where there is no conviction, for instance if the suspect has fled.

When distributing the confiscated assets, authorities will have to allocate victims of crime compensation. In cases of confiscations worth more than €10,000, the money that remains after the compensation would be shared between the issuing and executing member states.

Rapporteur Nathalie Griesbeck MEP said: “The regulation voted through is a key tool to combat the financing of criminal activity, including terrorism.”

“The committee adopted an ambitious position that will speed up confiscation and freezing of assets between member states with tight deadlines, leading to a more powerful European response in this key field. Parliament’s position also promotes the re-use of frozen and confiscated assets for social purposes.”

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