Agreement on transparency in the transfer of cryptographic assets and against money laundering

The European Union is making it harder for criminals to misuse cryptocurrencies for criminal purposes. Negotiators from the presidency of the Council and the European Parliament have come to an agreement on the proposal to update the rules on information accompanying transfers of funds, extending the scope of application of these rules to transfers of cryptoassets.

The introduction of this new regulation will guarantee financial transparency in crypto-asset exchanges and provide the EU with a robust and proportional framework that complies with the highest international standards on crypto-asset exchanges, in particular recommendations 15 and 16 of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), the global watchdog on money laundering and terrorist financing. This is particularly appropriate in the current geopolitical context.

The objective of this reform is to introduce the obligation for crypto-asset service providers to collect and make accessible certain information on the origin and beneficiary of the transfers of cryptoassets they operate. This is what payment service providers are currently doing for bank transfers, which ensure traceability of crypto-asset transfers to better identify and block potentially suspicious transactions.

The new agreement will allow the EU to address the risks of money laundering and terrorist financing involved in the use of these new technologies, while reconciling competitiveness, consumer and investor protection, and the protection of the financial integrity of the internal market.

The new agreement requires the full set of originator information to travel with the transfer of cryptoassets, regardless of the amount of cryptoassets being transacted.

In terms of data protection, legislators agreed that the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is still applicable to fund transfers and that no separate data protection rules will be established.

Improved traceability of crypto-asset transfers will also make it more difficult for persons and entities subject to restrictive measures to attempt to circumvent them. Furthermore, crypto-asset service providers will be required to put in place adequate internal policies, procedures and controls to mitigate the risks of evasion of national and Union restrictive measures.

More generally, the totality of sanctions already applies to all natural and legal persons, including those operating in the cryptocurrency sector.

In due course, Member States will have to make sure that all crypto-asset service providers qualify as obliged entities under the fourth AML directive. This will allow the EU to align itself with the FATF recommendations and level the playing field between Member States, which have so far developed different approaches in this regard.

Legislators also agreed on the urgency of ensuring the traceability of crypto-asset transfers and opted to align the implementation schedule of this regulation with that of the regulation of crypto-asset markets (MiCA).

This proposal is part of a package of legislative proposals to strengthen EU rules against money laundering and the financing of terrorism (AML/CFT) presented by the Commission on 20 July 2021. The package also includes a proposal to create a new EU authority to combat money laundering.

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The UNDP Supports Honduras in its Bid to Strengthen Citizen Security Policies

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has signed an agreement with Honduras to support the strengthening of the Comprehensive Policy for Coexistence and Citizen Security with a gender and human rights approach.

According to a press release from the Secretary of Security of the Central American country, the agreement was signed by the Honduran Minister of Security, Ramón Sabillón, and the UNDP Deputy Resident Representative in Honduras, Rose Diegues.

The agreement’s goal is to strengthen the actions of the Honduran State within the framework of the Coexistence and Citizen Security Policy and address the risk factors associated with violence and coexistence, as well as to promote the prevention of violence and reinforce peaceful coexistence.

It is worth mentioning that Honduras recorded an average of 41.59 murders per 100,000 inhabitants in 2021, a very high rate for a country not experiencing an internal war.

One of the main problems in Honduras, a country belonging to the region used for the passage of drugs coming from South America to the United States, is the violence caused by organised crime and drug trafficking.

Therefore, the agreement establishes the review and update of the Comprehensive Policy for Coexistence and Citizen Security 2023-2032 with a gender perspective, as well as the design of the Honduran National Prevention Strategy 2023-2027 with a gender perspective. In this way, a commitment is made to provide an effective response to society’s demands in terms of citizen security in the provision of services, decision-making and a prior process of analysis and assessment of these needs.

The process of verifying and updating the public policy on citizen security should be an instrument for encouraging proactive dialogue to prevent violence, foster peaceful coexistence and promote sustainable human development that will lead to better institutional development as a way to improve democratic governance and citizen security.

The UNDP has been supporting the processes of elaboration and strengthening of national public policies on citizen security with the use of its own tools developed to assist countries in these processes. This organisation also promotes the exchange of knowledge and the implementation of participatory methodologies to work on the design, validation, implementation, and evaluation of these policies.

Likewise, the UNDP seeks to improve citizen security from a perspective of violence prevention and attention, in order to create the social conditions that allow better quality of life for the population and access to an effective justice system, on both a national and local scale.

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Schengen Borders Code: The European Council Adopts a New Approach

The European Council has adopted a new general approach on the reform of the Schengen borders code. This was carried out as part of the French presidency’s bid to reform and strengthen the Schengen area in the face of new challenges.

This reform:

  • Offers new tools for combating the instrumentalisation of migrant flows and establishes a new legal framework for external borders measures in the event of a health crisis, based on the experience of recent events to do with the COVID-19 pandemic;
  • Updates the legal framework for the reintroduction of internal border controls in order to safeguard free movement, while responding to persistent threats;
  • Introduces alternative control actions.

The definition of instrumentalisation of migrants given in the text is as follows: a situation in which a third country or non-state actor encourages or facilitates the movement of third-country nationals to the external borders of the EU or to a member state with the aim of destabilising them. The reform introduces new measures to combat this phenomenon, such as limiting the number of crossing points at the external border and/or their opening hours, and increasing border control.

External border measures in case of a health crisis

The text provides for binding minimum standards on temporary travel restrictions at external borders to be rapidly put in place if public health is at risk. This will compliment tools currently available which were applied during the COVID-19 pandemic, and which are based on non-binding recommendations.

The binding implementing regulation to be adopted by the European Council in these situations will include minimum restrictions. Member States will have the possibility to apply stricter restrictions, if deemed necessary.

Reintroduction of internal border controls

The text establishes more structured procedures for the reintroduction of internal border controls, with greater guarantees. It acknowledges a recent ruling of the EU Court of Justice which confirmed the principle of freedom of movement within the Schengen area, while specifying the conditions for the reintroduction of internal border controls. In this sense, it offers possible actions against persistent threats in public policy and internal security.

If internal border controls remain necessary beyond two years and six months, the Member State concerned must notify the Commission of its intention to further prolong internal border controls. The notification must include a justification for the need, and specify the date on which it expects to lift the controls. The Commission will then issue a recommendation regarding the date and the principles of necessity and proportionality, which the Member State shall take into account.

Promotion of alternative measures

The text updates the Schengen borders code by providing alternative measures to internal border controls, specifically by proposing a more effective framework for police checks in the border regions of member states.

The text also introduces a new procedure for dealing with unauthorised movements of irregular migrants within the EU. In the context of a bilateral cooperation framework based on voluntary action by the member states concerned, this procedure will allow a member state to return third-country nationals apprehended in the border area and illegally present on its territory to the member state from which they originated, in the context of operational cross-border police cooperation.

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Europe steps up the fight against cross-border crime

To step up the fight against cross-border crime, the European Council has adopted negotiating mandates on a proposal on the exchange of digital information in terrorism cases and a proposal to create a collaboration platform for joint investigation teams. These proposals are part of ongoing work to modernise and digitalise cross-border judicial cooperation to facilitate the exchange of information for prosecutors and judges and bring to justice the growing number of criminals and terrorists operating across borders.

Currently, member states share information with Eurojust on terrorism-related cases through various channels. This information is then included in the European Judicial Counter-Terrorism Register, a technically obsolete system that does not allow for adequate cross-checking of information.

The proposal aims to correct these shortcomings and enable Eurojust to play a stronger and more proactive role in supporting coordination and cooperation between national authorities responsible for investigating and prosecuting terrorist offences.

The proposal includes:

  • Creating a modern, digital case management system that stores this information and allows it to be cross-checked.
  • Empowering Eurojust to better detect links between transnational investigations and prosecutions in the field of terrorism and to proactively inform member states of links found.
  • Creating a secure digital communication channel between Member States and Eurojust.
  • Simplifying cooperation with third countries by granting liaison prosecutors appointed at Eurojust access to the case management system.

Ministers will also seek to adopt a general guideline on the draft Regulation establishing a collaborative platform for joint investigation teams (JITs). These teams are created to develop specific criminal investigations for a set period of time. They are set up by the competent authorities of two or more Member States, with the possible participation of third countries concerned, to jointly manage cross-border investigations. The JIT framework allows team members to exchange evidence directly, without the need for traditional judicial cooperation procedures.

The proposed platform will facilitate the day-to-day coordination and management of JITs, ensure the exchange and temporary storage of operational information and evidence, and ensure secure communication and traceability of evidence. It must be accessible through a secure internet connection and shall include a centralised information system and a connection between this system and the relevant IT tools used by the JITs. Use of the platform will be encouraged but will remain voluntary.

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European Council intensifies fight against illegal drugs

In order to step up the fight against illegal drugs, the European Council adopted, in early June this year, a negotiating mandate on the proposal on the European Union Drugs Agency, aimed at turning the current European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction into a full-fledged agency and, above all, at strengthening its role.

The new Regulation will provide the Agency with the means to respond more effectively to the new public health and safety challenges posed by illegal drugs, provide better support to Member States and contribute to improving the international situation.

Data collection, analysis and dissemination will continue to be the Agency’s main task, but under the strengthened mandate it will also be able to:

  • Develop general health and safety threat assessment capabilities to rapidly detect new threats and develop regular foresight exercises to detect future challenges.
  • Specifically cover poly-substance use, which is the use of drugs in combination with other licit or illicit substances and which is becoming more and more common.
  • Increase its cooperation with the national focal points, whose position would be strengthened, enabling them to provide the Agency with relevant data on the national drug and drug addiction situation.
  • Establish a network of laboratories to enable the Agency to access forensic and toxicological information.
  • Develop evidence-based interventions to raise awareness and issue alerts when particularly hazardous substances appear on the market.

The Regulation will also clarify the Agency’s role in the field of international cooperation, so that it can fully participate in this type of activities and respond to requests from third countries and international organisations.

Negotiations with the European Parliament should begin once the latter has adopted its position.

It is worth noting that the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction was established in 1993 in Lisbon. It aims to provide the European Union and the Member States with factual and comparable information on drugs, drug addiction and their consequences, to serve as a basis for policy development, and to guide anti-drug initiatives. Its operation has greatly improved the availability of information on drugs and drug addiction throughout the EU and internationally.

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El Salvador’s government launches tough new offensive against gangs

After months of relative calm and fairly low levels of street violence, murders have increased again to levels not seen for almost 30 years in the Central American country. It could be said that the fragile truce of the gangs has come to an end.

As a consequence of this situation, a few weeks ago the Legislative Assembly approved a controversial request from the Executive to combat the gangs, aimed at reforming the penal code to toughen sentences against gang members.

As reported by bbc.com in an article, the measure comes after the government of Nayib Bukele asked the Assembly to declare a state of emergency in the country, after more than 80 murders took place during one weekend alone.

The laws, which for the time being will be implemented for one month, although they may be extended, include the suspension of freedom of association, the right to an attorney and the right to secrecy of correspondence. Currently, with the recently approved reform, gang members can be sentenced to 20 to 40 years in prison, while the leaders of these groups can receive a sentence of between 40 and 45 years in prison.

With regard to one of the most controversial points, the reform of the Penal Code also includes considering members of these groups over the age of 12 as adults – and judging them as such. This would be the first time that the government approves a specific penalty for those it considers gang members. Previously, in El Salvador these members were considered “terrorists” and were prosecuted under this category, although it was difficult to prove their participation in these groups, and sentences ranged from six to nine years in prison.

In this vein, the government has strengthened security in the streets and has requested in Congress to approve the state of emergency. The measure, approved by the ruling majority in the Legislative Assembly, limits freedom of association, suspends the right to be informed of the reasons for detention, extends the period of detention from 72 hours to 15 days and allows authorities to tap the mobile phones of those they deem suspicious.

According to the latest information, the authorities had arrested more than 3,000 suspected gang members. In parallel, President Bukele announced via Twitter that he had ordered to limit food and trips to the courtyard for imprisoned gang members and that their bed mattresses had been taken away. For several days, food has been rationed and the 16,000 imprisoned members have not left their cells.

Among the various reactions to the recent events, it is worth mentioning those of UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights or Human Rights Watch or Amnesty International, which showed their concern for the situation in the country and trust that the measures being taken are in line with international human rights laws and standards.

It is worth noting that approximately 70,000 gang members operate in El Salvador and fight for control of extortion and drug operations throughout the Central American country.

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Bags designed to help police officers intervene with people suffering from sensory processing disorder

The Alabama Law Enforcement Agency (ALEA) now has a simple but effective way to respond to people who are unable to respond to them: sensory bags.

Designed to help people suffering from sensory processing disorder to calm down, these bags offer a way for officers to interact positively and communicate with these individuals, who may appear to pose a threat to themselves or others.

Combined with the training that comes with the delivery of the bags, ALEA troopers can easily recognise the symptoms of sensory processing disorder and know how to relate to people suffering from sensory overload. This avoids any misunderstandings that could increase stress in an intervention.

In 2013, 12 agencies and several law enforcement professionals from the state of Alabama came together in one entity to create ALEA. The agency now has around 1500 employees in various departments such as Homeland Security, Public Safety, Revenue Enforcement and Criminal Justice. In 2021, all sworn personnel of the agency, including troopers, special agents with the state bureau of investigation, communication officers, and members of the driver license division, completed Sensory Inclusion training. This made it the first state law enforcement agency to be certified by KultureCity, a non-profit organisation specialising in the acceptance and accommodation of people with sensory processing and other disabilities.

KultureCity’s training, which is primarily video based, focuses on instilling understanding, acceptance and empathy in first responders for those with sensory needs, who are estimated to represent between 5 and 16 percent of the U.S. population.

A common symptom of autism, this disability also affects people suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, dementia, or strokes. It is a medical condition in which the brain has problems receiving and responding to information coming through the senses, causing them to be over- or under-sensitive to certain things they see, hear, smell, touch and taste.

Bright lights, street noise, scratchy clothing and other stimuli can overwhelm those who are hypersensitive and cause them to have an emotional breakdown and behave in ways that may appear bizarre, even aggressive. These individuals may seek sensory stimulation through activities such as shouting, flapping their arms, and randomly touching people, sometimes in a rough manner.

People experiencing sensory overload may be so overwhelmed that they cannot speak or mentally process what they are being asked to do. They may, therefore, appear to be under the influence of alcohol or drugs, and deliberately uncooperative.

Founded in 2013 by Dr. Julian Maha, whose son was diagnosed with a sensory disorder, KultureCity has provided training and sensory bags to more than 50 first responder agencies in the United States. Its training, designed to create acceptance based on an understanding of how people with sensory needs react to stimulus, focuses on four key areas:

  • Compassion for someone with an invisible disability or sensory need and awareness of how common these needs are.
  • The ability to recognise someone with an invisible disability or sensory need and how best to relate to them.
  • Strategies to help these people adjust to a situation that is overwhelming them.
  • How best to bring closure to this interaction and help resolve the situation in a positive way.

References:

CHADD. (2021, September 21). New Research in Sensory Processing Dysfunctionhttps://chadd.org/adhd-weekly/new-research-in-sensory-processing-dysfunction

Office of the Governor of Alabama. (2021, August 3). Governor Ivey Announces Sensory-Inclusive Training for State Law Enforcement Officershttps://governor.alabama.gov/newsroom/2021/08/governor-ivey-announces-sensory-inclusive-training-for-state-law-enforcement-officers/

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A strategy for stronger European Union security in the next decade

The European Council has formally approved the ‘strategic compass’, an ambitious action plan to strengthen the European Union’s security and defence policy by 2030.

The more hostile security environment makes it imperative to take a quantum leap forward and increase the capacity and willingness to act, strengthen resilience and invest more and better invest in defence and security capabilities.

The strength of the Union lies in unity and determination. The objective of this strategic compass is to make the EU a stronger and more capable security provider. The EU must be able to protect its citizens and contribute to international peace and security. This strategy should enhance the EU’s strategic autonomy and its ability to work with partners to safeguard its values and interests.

In order to strengthen its ability to anticipate and deter current and emerging threats and challenges, respond to them and safeguard the security interests of the European Union, the EU must:

  • Enhance intelligence analysis capabilities.
  • Develop hybrid teams for tools and response that bring together different tools to detect and respond to a wide range of hybrid threats.
  • Further develop the cyber-diplomatic toolbox and establish an EU cyberdefence policy in order to be better prepared for and respond to cyberattacks.
  • Develop a toolbox for foreign information manipulation and interference.
  • Provide additional incentives for member states to engage in collaborative capability development and jointly invest in strategic enablers and next-generation capabilities to operate on land, at sea, in air, in cyber domains and in outer space.
  • Develop a Union space strategy for security and defence.
  • Strengthen the EU’s role as a key player in maritime security.

A stronger security Union should contribute positively to global and transatlantic security.

The strategic compass provides a shared assessment of the strategic environment in which the EU operates and the threats and challenges it faces. The document makes concrete proposals for action, with a very precise timetable for implementation, to improve the EU’s ability to act decisively in crises and to defend its security and its citizens.

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Avoid excessive use of force through training

In democratic societies, one reality that police organisations must face is how to avoid excessive use of force. The debate often focuses on the demand for professional and criminal liability a posteriori, which also often clashes with a certain corporate “solidarity” of the officers who should contribute to proving the facts. An alternative (and more positive) strategy for dealing with these bad practices is to encourage the patrol colleagues themselves to stop or prevent these deviant behaviours, as in cases that have come to light, it has been shown that, while some officers exceeded the use of force, others who did not participate actively did nothing to prevent it.

In the United States, in recent years, following incidents of abuse of force that have happened around the world, attempts have been made to promote these interventions through training that attempts to reverse the passivity of officers who do not intervene directly but who witness the events. In 2015, the New Orleans Police Chief at that time, Michael S. Harrison, launched the EPIC (Ethical Policing Is Courageous) programme. He was assisted by psychologist Ervin Staub, a professor specialising in the psychology of violence.

The programme is based on the approach that police officers are people who at certain times may be tired and stressed, circumstances that may lead them to make mistakes. Their colleagues who are also present at the site of the action, but who do not make an intervention and instead take on the role of observer or spectator, can detect these situations, which may also be signs of mental illness or addiction. In this way, it is intended to avoid the reluctance that exists in the police forces related to corporatism and the culture of silence in the face of these deviant actions, as preventive intervention is not detrimental to the colleague, but rather prevents the incident. Therefore, it goes beyond the fact of not following someone who is performing a deviant action or stopping it, and the emphasis is placed on the causes and possible indicators.

At the same time, it proposes a paradigm shift in how loyalty is understood, that it should not be seen as keeping silent about wrongdoing, but should be the basis for preventing injuries, deaths or officers putting their professional careers at risk. In other words, it emphasises the need for officers to care for one another and redefines what is considered to be giving and receiving support from colleagues.

The training identifies the inhibiting factors that cause an officer to maintain a passive role and not stop an inappropriate action, such as lack of empathy or fear of being ostracised. It also shows how, with some small actions, these actions can be prevented or stopped before they become irregular: a police officer who takes charge of the action when they see their partner taking off their glasses, or another who removes the knee of a fellow police officer from the neck of a detainee. Other alternatives they propose are, for example, pointing out the badge given to police officers who have completed the training, or using some key phrases to take over the action or to make the fellow police officer see that the use of force must be stopped.

In the two years following the training of officers in this city, some incidents, such as vehicle pursuits or use of force complaints, declined, although it is unclear to what extent this decline was related to the programme.

EPIC was the basis that the Georgetown University Law School used for another programme, called ABLE, an acronym for Active Bystandership in Law Enforcement Policing, which has already been adhered to by over 200 US law enforcement agencies.

For more information you can consult the following links:

EPIC Programme

http://epic.nola.gov/home/

https://www.baltimorepolice.org/transparency/bpd-policies/1-ethical-policing-courageous-epic-training-lesson-plan

ABLE Programme

The New York Times. “A New Message for Police: If You See Something, Say Something,” February 27, 2022.

BBC News: “Ervin Staub: A Holocaust survivor’s mission to train ‘heroic bystanders'”

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-54339252

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European Commission: boosting cross-border police cooperation to enhance security

The European Commission has proposed a European Union Police Cooperation Code to improve cross-border police cooperation between all member states and provide EU police officers with more modern information exchange tools.

Since most criminals operate across borders, EU law enforcement officers must be able to collaborate quickly and efficiently. The Police Cooperation Code, which includes a Recommendation on operational police cooperation and new forms of information exchange, will help improve cross-border operations, provide clear channels and timeframes for exchanging information and give Europol a greater role.

In addition, revised rules on the automated exchange of certain categories of data will help to link crimes across the EU much more effectively. This will help to avoid information gaps, boost crime prevention, detection and investigation in the EU and promote security across Europe.

The proposed measures include:

  • A Recommendation on operational police cooperation, which establishes common standards on cooperation between police officers participating in joint patrols and operating in the territory of another member state. This covers a common list of offences for which cross-border hot pursuits are possible and secure messaging tools for police officers to communicate with their counterparts when conducting operations in other EU countries.
  • New rules on the exchange of information between law enforcement authorities of the Member States: police officers in one Member State must have equivalent access to information available to their colleagues in another Member State, under the same conditions. Member States shall establish a single point of contact, operational 24 hours a day, seven days a week, adequately staffed and functioning as a “one-stop shop” for the exchange of information with other EU countries. The requested information must be made available within eight hours (for urgent cases) and within seven days at the latest. The Secure Information Exchange Network Application (SIENA), managed by Europol, should become the default communication channel.
  • Revised standards on automated data exchange for police cooperation in the framework of the Prüm Decision, in order to improve, facilitate and streamline the exchange of data and help identify criminals. This ranges from the aggregation of facial images of suspected and convicted criminals and police records to automated data exchange and the introduction of a central router to which national databases can be connected, rather than a multitude of connections between each national database. Europol will also be able to support Member States in a more efficient way through the study of data from non-EU countries with member states’ databases, thus helping to identify known offenders in third countries.

Next steps:

It is now up to the European Parliament and the Council to examine and adopt the proposal for a Directive on the exchange of information and the Regulation on automated data exchange. The proposal for a Council recommendation on operational police cooperation is now to be discussed and adopted by the Council, after consultation with the European Parliament. The Recommendation would then serve as a basis for all member states to update their existing national or bilateral agreements.

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