EU sets up new financial crime unit

The EU set up on Friday a new special unit of investigators to tackle an anticipated surge in financial crime in the economic downturn caused by the coronavirus pandemic, news wires reported. The European Financial and Economic Crime Centre (EFECC) will work closely with Europol.

“The fallout from the Covid-19 pandemic has weakened our economy and created new vulnerabilities from which crime can emerge," Europol head Catherine de Bolle said. "We need to follow the money to its ultimate destination and take it away from criminals," she wrote on Twitter adding that sectors such as construction, hospitality, travel and tourism are at higher risk of being infiltrated by criminals during the expected economic downturn.

The new group will employ 65 analysts and will fight financial crime in all the Member States. They will work with authorities in respective countries. The EU currently estimates that only around 1% of criminal profits in Europe are recovered. The Union is especially concerned about subsidies being offered to tackle the effects of the pandemic. These subsidies "will be targeted by criminals seeking to defraud public funding," Europol warned. Frauds involving medical equipment are also on the rise.

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