Madrid wants to become the European anti-money laundering capital

by Lorraine Williamson
money laundering - Madrid as capital

MADRID – The government of Spain and the regional authorities in Madrid are working together to bring the European anti-money laundering authority to the Spanish capital. 

Last Wednesday, the national government of Spain, together with the regional government of Madrid and Spanish MEPs, presented their bid in Brussels to bring the European organisation AMLA to Madrid. AMLA (the English abbreviation for Authority for Anti-Money Laundering) is the prestigious new European authority against money laundering. 

The EU decided to set up AMLA in 2021. However, no agreement has yet been reached on where it will be located. 

Remarkable collaboration 

The cooperation between the national government and that of the Madrid region is striking, especially in light of the recent local elections. The president of the Madrid region, Isabel Díaz Ayuso of the conservative Partido Popular, is one of the strongest critics of socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez. The regional government of Madrid is therefore often on a collision course with the national government. However, the establishment of an important institution like the AMLA in Madrid transcends party interests. 

Madrid best credentials

Officially, the selection procedure for the location of the AMLA has not yet started, but Madrid wants to informally put itself in the spotlight in Brussels. In October 2022, the mayor of Madrid had already announced that his city wanted to run for office. Moreover, it is also known that Madrid is not the only city that preys on this important institution. Major cities such as Paris, Frankfurt and Vienna are also in the race. But the proponents think that Madrid has the best credentials. 

Spain predecessor 

Spain is an international leader in combating money laundering. And especially where the financing of terrorist activities is concerned. In any case, combating terrorism was one of the main reasons for the EU to set up the AMLA. Consequently, there is therefore sufficient knowledge and experience available in Madrid. 

Cogesa Expats

High standard of living 

Moreover, Madrid offers the visitor a high quality of life, has all possible facilities and the cost of living is relatively low. At least, if you compare it to other European capitals. This is, therefore, interesting for future employees of the institute. 

Glass tower 

Madrid also already offers a concrete place where the authority can establish itself. The so-called ‘glass tower’ (Torre de Cristal) in the north of the city can be used immediately. This fifty-storey office building can be reached directly from the airport by motorway. 

Political asset 

Madrid also has a good trump card from a political point of view. Indeed, it is one of the few European capitals where no major EU body has yet established itself. That is an important argument in the horse-trading that often boils down to dividing European institutions. With the establishment of the AMLA, Madrid hopes to strengthen its image as a city with international allure. 

Money laundering scandals 

After several money laundering scandals at European banks (including the Dutch ING), the EU decided in 2019 on an ambitious package of measures to combat money laundering. One of those measures was the establishment of an authority to coordinate the anti-money laundering activities of the Member States. After all, crime, and thus money laundering, is increasingly crossing national borders. That authority became the AMLA. The AMLA should start up in 2024 and be fully operational in 2026. 

Direct supervision 

The AMLA will have approximately 250 employees. The body should set international standards for financial transactions and promote cooperation between Member States in this area. It will also be given some specific powers to directly supervise certain financial institutions, including high-risk cryptocurrency providers. 

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