* Customs officials to be given more powers to seize money
* EU mulls terrorist finance tracking programme
* Proposals make criminal assets easier to confiscate
(adds plans on tighter controls on financial transfers)
By Francesco Guarascio
BRUSSELS, Dec 21 The European Commission
proposed tightening controls on cash and precious metals
transfers from outside the EU on Wednesday, in a bid to shut
down one route for funding of militant attacks on the continent.
The move follows Monday's attack on a Christmas market in
Berlin, where 12 people were killed as a truck ploughed into a
crowd. It is part of an EU "action plan against terrorist
financing" unveiled after the bombings and shootings in Paris in
Under the new proposals, customs officials in European Union
states can step up checks on cash and prepaid payment cards sent
by post or in freight shipments.
Authorities will also be able to seize cash or precious
metals carried by suspect individuals entering the EU.
People carrying more than 10,000 euros ($10,400) in cash
already have to declare this at customs when entering the EU.
The new rules would allow authorities to seize money below that
threshold "where there are suspicions of criminal activity," the
EU executive commission said in a note.
EU officials said some of the recent attacks in Europe were
carried out with limited funds, sometimes sent from outside the
EU by criminal networks.
The Commission is also considering whether to set up an
EU-focussed "terrorist finance tracking programme" along the
lines of the U.S.-EU TFTP, which has long been opposed by EU
lawmakers and privacy campaigners because it allows widespread
checks on consumers' bank transfers.
"There are a lots of new ways of transferring money and not
all of those are covered in the EU-US scheme," security
commissioner Julian King told a news conference in Brussels. He
said the Commission will study the impact of a possible EU
programme and "report back by next summer."
The Commission is also proposing common rules for the 28 EU
countries on freezing "terrorists' financial resources" and on
confiscating assets even from those thought to be connected to
Brussels also wants EU states to apply minimum common rules
on money laundering, to avoid criminals exploiting differences
between different countries.
Security forces across the bloc would also be able to
exchange information more effectively under a planned review of
the European system for sharing information.
The proposals must be approved by EU states and the European
Parliament to become law.
The plan complements Commission proposals after the Paris
attacks to tighten controls on virtual currencies such as
bitcoin, and prepaid cards, which French authorities said were
used to fund the bombings.
EU states backed these proposals on Tuesday. Under the deal,
which still needs European Parliament approval, holders of
prepaid cards would have to show some form of identity when they
make payments of 150 euros or more.
($1 = 0.9624 euros)
(Editing by Hugh Lawson)