Money laundering is becoming more and more important in several jurisdictions. The reason is that money laundering cases often include cross-border elements. In addition, there are several EU regulations and directives addressing this issue which aim to combat money laundering with detailed guidelines for various parties such as banks and lawyers.
In Austria, several provisions contained in various acts refer to money laundering. The key provision is Art 165 StGB (Strafgesetzbuch, Austrian Criminal Code). According to this provision, any person who hides or conceals the origin of assets that are the proceeds of a felony, an offence against property or certain other criminal offences, commits money laundering. The same applies for any person who knowingly takes possession, stores, invests, administers, transforms, utilizes or transfers to a third person any such assets.
The provision lists several criminal offences that come into question as predicate offences for money laundering; however, it does not explicitly state under which law these predicate offences shall be construed in order to assess whether an actual predicate offence was committed for money laundering.
When it comes to cases with a cross-border element, this question is critical. For instance, if assets are transferred from a third country to Austria and it is uncertain whether they originated from a crime that was committed abroad, the question arises under which conditions such an offence committed abroad is to be considered a predicate offence for money laundering in Austria.
In a recent decision, the Austrian Supreme Court clarified this question: An offence committed and punishable abroad comes into question as a predicate offence if it mirrors a crime listed in article 165 StGB under Austrian law (RS0130928).
The decision is no surprise but it shows once more, that awareness about money laundering, particularly when cross-border elements are involved, can never be too high.