Sir Rob – who led the EU’s policing agency for nine years from 2009 to 2018 – said that it was a consistent finding that around 1% of criminal profits are ever seized back by authorities.
This, he said, was despite numerous measures, laws, and new networks put in place to make it higher. “That figure of seizing 1% or less is a figure that keeps coming back in successive studies or research,” he said. “So we have a big problem, a very big problem.”
His outlook on its most urgent challenges had boiled down to two main problems. The first was while criminals may have often engaged in turf wars with each other in the past, this was no longer the case. Gangland style infighting had been replaced by more modern, sophisticated collaborations. Technology, he warned, was a key enabler that had allowed this.
The second problem, he said, lay in global AML systems and the fact that they are so frequently bested by criminal systems despite efforts to improve them.
“Though there have been refinements and improvements, they have largely failed to keep real pace,” he told the conference, noting that many were the victims of “flawed design concepts”.
He also criticised the overreliance on compliance as a measurement tactic, rather than analysing the “real effects” of AML activities.
When it came to Wainwright’s suggestions for boosting that 1% figure, his answer was a steered, precise and information-driven approach to catching criminals. “Rather than starting with the idea that we have a 100 haystacks and there are some needles somewhere. We should gather intelligence as much as possible to learn, ‘it’s that haystack over there.’”
A “laser-targeted” method would be far better than a “blunt, catch-all,” method, he stressed. And it involved information sharing both between financial institutions and the authorities.
The much vaunted Dutch initiative, Transaction Monitoring Netherlands (TMNL) was a great example, he said. TMNL is a platform that allows data to be shared between institutions, but still maintains data privacy.
Its tech-based processes hide specific personal details from all involved unless directly relevant, and they were a welcome tool, enabling stakeholders to see what he described as “the horizontal nature of the threat.”
“Rob is right,” European Banking Federation Executive Committee Member and CEO of BPFI Brian Hayes remarked. “It’s not just about compliance, it’s about dealing with the issue in a clever way.”
Hayes himself described the current inability to share information, bankto- bank, as the industry’s biggest challenge and welcomed new initiatives that bring balance to the tug-of-war between data sharing and data privacy.
On the Cybersecurity side the conference also heard from European Commission Vice President Margaritis Schinas; US Assistant Attorney General for National Security John Demers; and INTERPOL Head of Police Services Stephen Kavanagh.