EU adopts plan on bank money laundering, may delay reforms

National governments have for months been mulling a proposal to create some sort of budget capacity for the single currency bloc. (File/AFP)
Updated 04 December 2018
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EU adopts plan on bank money laundering, may delay reforms

  • The action plan is meant to be the EU response to high-profile cases of alleged money laundering at banks in several EU states

BRUSSELS: European Union finance ministers on Tuesday adopted a plan to enhance the bloc’s defenses against money laundering at banks, but the move could slow a legislative reform on banking supervision.
The action plan is meant to be the EU response to high-profile cases of alleged money laundering at banks in several EU states, including Denmark, Estonia, Latvia, Luxembourg, Malta, Spain, the Netherlands, Britain and Cyprus.
Ministers agreed there was a “need to strengthen the effectiveness of the current framework” to counter money laundering, and proposed some non-legislative actions to implement in coming months.
But the plan did not include any recommendation for legislative changes. Nor did it address calls from the European Central Bank to set up an EU-wide agency to counter money laundering.
The plan could also delay proposed reforms of money-laundering supervision from the European Commission in September, because ministers first want to assess the recent cases of financial crime, the document said, confirming a Reuters report last week.
The Commission’s proposal would have given the European Banking Authority more power to oversee money laundering and would have increased from one to 12 the agency’s staff in charge of monitoring financial crime at thousands of banks in the EU.
The review of past cases is expected to last until June. That would be after EU elections due in May, which makes it likely the new European Parliament will shelve the proposed legislative changes.
The action plan lists measures that would need to be carried out until 2020 and tries to reduce the discretion of national supervisors in applying anti-money laundering rules, which in some states have been executed too leniently.
Under the plan, supervisors will have to clarify existing rules for assessing whether bank managers are fit for their job and on revoking banking licenses for serious breaches of anti- money-laundering rules. National authorities are also requested to cooperate more closely, but without new binding requirements on exchanging information. The European Commission is invited to make proposals for other possible changes in the second half of next year, but no indication is given on which long-term reforms should be considered.


Women's temple ban debate rages in India flashpoint vote

Updated 5 min 49 sec ago
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Women's temple ban debate rages in India flashpoint vote

  • Indian Supreme Court ruled the ban on women from entering a Hindu temple as unconstitutional
  • Two of the three candidates for presidency support the ban
PATHANAMTHITTA, India: Voters in a flashpoint constituency in southern India went to the polls Tuesday after a campaign dominated by the fallout from the controversial decision to allow women to enter a Hindu temple.
The district of Pathanamthitta in the state of Kerala includes the Sabarimala Hindu temple, where two women finally defied a longstanding ban on women of menstruating age last year.
Traditionalists were outraged and many women remain divided over the move, which has overshadowed the campaign with candidates staging election parades on the issue.
Kanaka Durga and Bindu Ammini made history in December when police guided them into the hilltop shrine, after the Supreme Court ruled that the ban was unconstitutional.
Days of pitched battles erupted between traditionalists and activists. The anger has not died down and core issues such as unemployment, health and education have been pushed aside during the campaign.
The whole country is expected to follow the result when it is announced on May 23 after India’s marathon election.
Two of the three main candidates in the election are men who support the ban, while the third is a woman who has tried to dodge the topic.
Veena George, who is standing for the alliance of left wing parties that runs Kerala’s state government cited an election commission advisory to avoid using the temple to get votes.
“We need a revival of job opportunities, agriculture and infrastructure. Educated women need jobs,” she told AFP on the last day of campaigning before Tuesday’s vote.
India’s main opposition Congress party has fielded Anto Antony, who won the last two elections and has backed the traditionalists.
The Bharatiya Janata Party of Prime Minister Narendra Modi has brandished its pro-Hindu credentials as it seeks to make an impact in a state where it has always struggled.
The BJP has fielded K. Surendran, who became the symbol of the massive temple protests across Kerala. He now faces more than 200 police cases related to violence during last year’s Sabarimala protests.
“The Communists have an issue with our prayers and religion but they can’t crush believers’ rights,” Modi told a rally in Kerala last week.
“We won’t tolerate any attack on a tradition that has lasted thousands of years,” Modi added to wild cheers.
Many women have backed the traditionalist cause.
“Local men and women agree. There is only one issue in this election — our faith. And the court shouldn’t have intervened,” Lakshmi, who works at a local hospital, and only uses one name, told AFP.
“I feel hurt as a Hindu when I see things going against our culture and tradition,” added Bindhu, a housewife.
“The temple has always been a place where women could not go. It is not acceptable to see people coming and fighting to enter now,” she added.
Tens of thousands of people, including many women, took part in street marches and protests in support of the ban.
However, uncertainty remains over how many women will vote for their right to enter Sabarimala.
“Women should be free to choose whether to enter or not. To me, women’s safety, here and all over India, is the only issue that is important,” said Ansa S., a medical student.