Articles 324-1 and following of the Criminal Code set out the elements which constitute the criminal offence of money laundering. According to Article 324-1, money laundering presupposes that an earlier criminal offence has been committed.

Thus, two different criminal offences are involved. So what is the situation regarding the statute of limitations? Is it possible to sue someone for money laundering based on Article 324-1 when a judicial proceeding against that person for the earlier criminal offence is time-barred?

The Supreme Court (03-81.165, January 14 2004) has previously held that money laundering is autonomous in relation to the earlier criminal offence.

The Chamber of the Colmar Court of Appeals recently ruled that if money laundering is necessarily a consequence of an earlier criminal offence, then both are autonomous in relation to each other. Based on this principle, the court ruled that the statute of limitations for that earlier criminal offence has no bearing on the limitation period for the money laundering offence.

The French Supreme Court has now upheld the Colmar Court of Appeals' decision (12-80.715, May 31 2012).

For further information on this topic please contact Philippe Blaquier-Cirelli or Pierre Mounier at DLA Piper by telephone (+33 01 40 15 24 84), fax (+33 01 40 15 24 03) or email (philippe.blaquiercirelli@dlapiper.com or pierre.mounier@dlapiper.com).

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