REPORT OF THE AGENCY FOR THE MANAGEMENT AND RECOVERY OF SEIZED AND CONFISCATED ASSETS (AGRASC)

On May 14, 2015, the Agency for the Management and Recovery of Seized and Confiscated Assets (AGRASC) released an annual report for 2014 concerning key data relating to the seizure of property acquired through illegal activity. Constituted in 2011, the AGRASC acts on behalf of the ministries of justice to apprehend profits, property, and assets acquired through illegal activity. The agency is also charged with notifying relevant creditors or victims of assets sales, so that they receive due compensation. The report noted that compensation for victims increased significantly in 2014.

The AGRASC released several recommendations in its annual report to help better ensure its efficacy, including:

  • enactment of a post-sentencing detection and identification procedure to allow for more effective value confiscation recovery;
  • access to information held in criminal registers, financial records, and administrative records (including national ID cards, passports, residency permits, and the Vehicle Registration System);
  • publication of the seizure of licensed vehicles in the Vehicle Registration System in order to block any security liens against the vehicle, following an attachment order;
  • clarification on the basis for compensation for victims who are parties in a civil lawsuit by rephrasing a specific provision of the Criminal Procedure Code, including modifications (1) better specifying the deadline for victims to notify the AGRASC, and (2) specifying the means of distribution of compensation among the plaintiffs in a criminal proceeding in the event the value of confiscated property is insufficient to meet all demands in full.

ACTIVITY REPORT FOR THE FRENCH FINANCIAL INFORMATION UNIT, TRAFCIN.

The French Financial Information Unit, known as TRAFCIN, is an intelligence service attached to the Ministry of Finances and Public Accounts. The agency is charged with combatting illegal financial channels, money laundering, and terrorism financing.  TRAFCIN is responsible for collecting, examining, and analysing declarative suspicions made by professionals required by law to report suspicious activity.

TRAFCIN released its public annual report for 2014 on April 16, 2015. The report noted that certain sectors failed to comply with reporting requirements, notably insurance companies and notaries.

In 2014, the agency received 34,419 notifications of suspicious activity, three times the number over the course of the previous ten years. The growth in reporting activity came from both financial and non-financial sectors. 86 per cent of reports for suspicious activity came from the banking sector.

While claims of tax fraud contributed to higher reporting activity in 2014, the agency also attributed a growth in reporting activity to the implementation of the COSI reporting regime established in 2013 which requires credit agencies, payment institutions, and electronic money institutions to file a report if a client withdraws 1,000 euros in one transaction or withdraws over 2,000 euros within one month.  It also requires financial professionals to alert TRAFCIN of any suspicious activity of money laundering or terrorism financing. 

From January 1, 2016, the COSI reporting regime will require credit agencies, payment institutions, and electronic money institutions to regularly inform TRAFCIN of any cash deposits or withdrawals in excess of 10,000 euro.  Discussions of whether to extend this requirement to insurance agencies are in progress. 

FRENCH FIRMS ACQUITTED IN 'OIL FOR FOOD' CASES

A French Court has acquitted 14 companies including Renault Trucks, Schneider Electric and Legrand, as well as several senior managers, of corruption related charges in respect of payments made to the former Iraqi regime to win contracts under the UN "oil for food" programme. More than 2000 companies were alleged to have paid the Iraqi government between 1996 and 2003 in breach of the programme and relevant sanctions.