Consumer advocates criticized the home minister’s move

Consumer advocates criticized the home minister's move
Euro bills

Huge sums of money are smuggled into the mainstream economy every year. Home Minister Pfizer now wants to make money laundering more difficult with cash payment limits.

(Photo: dpa)

Berlin The Federation of German Consumer Organizations (VZBV) has criticized Interior Minister Nancy Feiser’s (SPD) move for a general upper monetary limit. “The state must take effective measures against money laundering, there is no question about that,” said Dorothea Mohan, head of the financial markets team at the VZBV, Handelsblatt. But holding money users under general suspicion and restricting their activities is not good.

Pfizer has spoken out in favor of introducing a general cash limit of €10,000, with the aim of fighting organized crime. “This reduces the possibility of criminals hiding their assets,” the SPD politician told “Bild am Sonntag”. According to Pfizer, it “disrupts criminal structures and permanently deprives them of criminal income”.

On the other hand, Mohan emphasized that cash is “very important” as a means of payment for almost all consumers. So the federal government is being asked to “look forward and secure money over the long term.” However, so far, no measures have been identified – not to ensure cash acceptance at retail or for easy and cheap access to cash. “Instead, the proposal for a maximum monetary limit creates uncertainty,” the consumer advocate criticized.

The issue is also being discussed at the EU level. Last year, the EU Commission proposed a Europe-wide cash ceiling as part of a whole package of measures for a more effective fight against money laundering. This limit helps ensure that money from criminal transactions can no longer flow easily into the normal economy.

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Many EU countries already have limits on cash transactions. However, countries like Germany, Austria, Ireland, Finland, Sweden and Hungary should introduce them first.

Money limits are also being discussed in Italy

In Italy, according to the new government, it should be possible to pay large sums in cash again. Prime Minister Georgia Meloni announced that the upper limit would be raised from the current €2,000 to €10,000, drawing criticism from the opposition.

>> Also Read: Financial Supervisor Birgit Rodolphe – “Fighting money laundering is like raising children”

In Italy, bills or goods can only be paid in cash up to 2,000 euros. Meloni’s previous government under Mario Draghi planned to lower the limit to 1,000 euros on January 1, 2023.

In Germany, the money limit has long been controversial. Former Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble (CDU) once proposed a €10,000 limit but backed off due to public outcry.

Home Minister Faisar also demands this amount as an upper limit, sparking a fresh debate. For example, the CSU thinks little of this and points out that strict and effective burdens of proof apply in Germany if someone wants to pay a large sum of money.

Sebastian Fiedler, a money-laundering expert at the SPD parliamentary group, defended the interior minister’s initiative. “Technically, there is little doubt that imposing a general monetary limit is a very effective tool to make money laundering more difficult,” Fiedler told Handelsblatt. He referred to an analysis by the EU police authority Europol which made clear “how important money is to serious crime and thus to money laundering”.

A monetary limit of 10,000 euros means “practically no” for consumers, but restrictions for criminals. In addition to the cash ban on real estate purchases already in place by the federal government, the SPD politician said the cash limit would be “another important step in ridding Germany of its reputation as a money-laundering paradise.”

More: How Lindner wants to catch big money launderers with a new authority

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