The EU's police force, Europol, has approved a new crime center to fight financial crime. Money-laundering and fraud are expected to rise in the wake of the economic downturn caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
The European Union set up a unit of investigators on Friday to tackle an anticipated surge in financial crime in the economic downturn caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
The European Financial and Economic Crime Center will work with Europol, the EU's law enforcement agency.
"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," Europol wrote on Twitter.
Europol said sectors such as construction, hospitality, travel and tourism are at higher risk of being infiltrated by criminals during the expected economic downturn.
Only 1% of criminal profits recovered
The new group will employ 65 analysts and will fight financial crime in the 27 EU 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 bloc 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.
ed/aw (AFP, Reuters)