POLITICS

Lower chamber passes money laundering bill amid vote controversy

At a plenary session on Wednesday, the Chamber of Deputies passed a previously rejected bill combating money laundering and terrorism financing, 170 to 70.

The PSD group proposed the vote redo, arguing that there were parliamentarians who had not voted even though they were present. As a result of the vote redo, the law was adopted with a majority of votes. Because of the uncertain situation registered during the plenary session, Liviu Dragnea asked that the electronic voting system be verified.

The voting resumed at the request tabled by PSD House whip Danial Suciu, who invoked the fact that two parliamentarians who were in the hall were listed as not having voted.

According to the report that the Judiciary Committee and Budget Committee jointly cast on the law combating money laundering, the “real beneficiary” notion includes, in the case of associations and foundations, “natural persons or, in case they were not identified, the category of natural persons in whose main interest the association or foundation was set up or is working.”

The bill transposes several European directives on combating money laundering.

According to the law, the National Office for the Prevention and Combating of Money Laundering (ONPCSB) is Romania’s financial information unit. The Office is the authority that coordinates the assessment of money laundering and financing of terrorism risks at national level.

The bill provides for associations and foundations to be placed under an obligation to disclose to the relevant public bodies – including the National Office for the Prevention of and Combat against Money Laundering (ONPCSB) – all their beneficiaries. According to an amendment added on Monday by the Judiciary Committee, the organisations of citizens belonging to national minorities members of the Council of National Minorities, are exempted from these provisions and will not be disclosing entities.

The bill also provides for a ban on the issuance of nominal shares.

ONPCSB should submit to the National Agency for Fiscal Administration (ANAF) monthly reports on cash transactions, reports on external transfers to and from accounts, and reports on money remittance activities received from reporting entities that are under an obligation to disclose such information to the ONPCSB.

The bill states that the “reporting entities” consist of credit and financial institutions, financial institutions, administrators of private pension funds, providers of gambling services, auditors, accounting experts, persons who offer tax consultancy, notaries public, lawyers, judicial executors, real-estate agents, foundations and associations, as well as “other entities that commercialise goods or offer services, to the extent that they carry out cash transactions whose minimum limit represents the RON-denominated equivalent of EUR 10,000, regardless whether the transaction is carried out in a single operation or through several operations that seem to be connected.”

These reporting entities are obligated to submit to the ONPCSB “a report on suspicious activity” if they “know, suspect, or have reasonable reason to suspect that: the assets are the proceeds of crime or are connected with the financing of terrorism; or the person or the signatory/representative/attorney in fact are not who they claim to be.”

At the same time, the report adopted by the special committees contains amendments that introduce a category titled “persons with public exposure,” which includes the Romanian President, members of Government, parliamentarians, leadership of political parties and CCR judges.

The bill was adopted by the Senate, as the first Chamber of Parliament notified, on September 24.

 

Dragnea on the voting system: I’ve asked the Secretary General to conduct a serious overhaul

 

House Speaker Liviu Dragnea explained on Wednesday, after the vote on the money laundering law, that he asked the Secretary General to conduct a serious evaluation, considering that there are complaints about the way the voting system works.

“There were several House lawmakers who exercised their votes and they were not counted by the IT system. We are talking about colleagues from the PSD, minorities, ALDE. There was a request from the party whip, a vote, and the result was seen. You can’t take away a House lawmaker’s right to vote,” Liviu Dragnea explained, referring to the vote redo on the law concerning money laundering.

The House Speaker demanded that the voting system be verified.

“I asked the Secretary General to carry out a serious overhaul. Several colleagues said that there is an entire console that poses problems when voting,” Liviu Dragnea added.

 

PSD leader does not understand NGOs’ “anger” with law on combating money laundering

 

PSD President Liviu Dragnea stated on Wednesday that he does not understand the “anger” of the NGOs who had asked House lawmakers not to adopt the law on combating money laundering, stating that he suspects they are “of good will, carrying out legal, transparent activities, and they have nothing to hide.”

“I don’t understand why their activity would be affected, because I suspect they are NGOs of good will, carrying out legal, transparent activities, and they have nothing to hide,” Liviu Dragnea stated.

Asked whether persons who receive food from NGOs must declare it, he said the law has a provision according to which, if those persons cannot be identified, the domain of activity is declared.

Forty non-governmental organisations have asked House lawmakers, in an open letter, not to adopt, in its current form, the bill on preventing and combating money laundering and the financing of terrorism.

“Introduced in the body of this law, whose necessity we do not dispute, were provisions whose purpose is not preventing money laundering but blocking the activity of Romanian associations and foundations.

“We hereby ask the members of the House not to adopt the bill in the form it has on the plenum’s agenda. We ask especially the members of UDMR and the representatives of ethnic minorities not to accept this deal proposed by the Government, which sees the organisations of ethnic minorities exempted from the provisions of the law, in exchange for political support at the voting. By doing so they will accept an abuse against the entire non-government sector, in exchange for an illusory privilege.

“Without any grounds, the law puts civil society, the providers of gambling services and banking institutions in the same financial risk category. Without publishing any risk analysis, as recommended by the international standards in this field, thus imposed on the NGOs are some reporting obligations that even strong institutions that register important profits, such as banks and casinos, will handle with difficulty. The law introduces the obligation to report the real beneficiary within 30 days from the moment they become known; in case of noncompliance, the organisation can be dissolved. The excessive character does not stem from the obligation to report per se, but from the subjects of this obligation: natural persons who benefit from assistance, counselling, help, socio-medical activities, educational or cultural activities, including children, the elderly, disabled persons or persons with medical conditions on account of which they require help,” reads the letter of the non-government organisations.

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