Ministers from the competing nations presented their cases for why their countries should host the AMLA at a meeting of the bloc's Economic and Financial Affairs Council.
The only Baltic nation still in the running is Lithuania, with Latvia eliminated due to its treatment of former FIU chief Ilze Znotina.
Italy, France, Germany, Austria, and others are also involved in the field; Holland is the most recent country to show interest in having the Authority's headquarters in The Hague. The escalating organized crime issue in the Netherlands and Belgium could either work in the Hague's favor or against it. Dublin, on the other hand, is clearly out of the picture.
The European Commission's EU AML package, which Mairead McGuinness, the European Commissioner for Financial Services, Financial Stability, and Capital Markets Union, unveiled last July, has made progress, according to ministers at the Council meeting in Luxembourg.
Speaking at the meeting, which was presided over by France's Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire, Commissioner McGuiness emphasized that the proposed package was "critical" for safeguarding not only the "ntegrity of our economy and the security of citizens," but also our financial system.
She added that AMLA will "completely reshape the institutional set-up of the AML framework," but cautioned that the work "is not yet done."
It did not take long for discussion to shift to the future location of AMLA.
The representative for Germany stated that it was crucial for AMLA to be situated "where it can effectively carry out the fight against money laundering," and further stated that "Germany will be one of the candidates to host the new headquarters of AMLA in Frankfurt."
Frankfurt is an important financial centre which has surpassed geographical accessibility, high standard of living for the people who might end up working for the agency or the authority, and we have a lot of talent of the first order and it will benefit from close cooperation between the prudential approach to money laundering, and as I have said, if it comes across the Frankfurt, AMLA will become very quickly operational in an effective way," he said.
Frankfurt's ranking as the seventh most livable city in the world this week by the Economist is undoubtedly another plus for Germany. However, Vienna, which is also vying for AMLA, took the top spot.
Germany's recent money laundering scandals, such as the collapse of Wirecard, may also work against it. Germany was also referred to as a "money laundering paradise" at the AML Intelligence Summer Invitational Roundtable last week in Brussels.
Bruno Le Maire, chair of the AMLA from France, declined to participate in discussions about the organization's potential headquarters, saying: "Frankfurt is a wonderful city but today when it comes to the headquarters, I don’t think that we should get into that debate right now."
Keep in mind that Paris is trying to lure AMLA, citing the need for it to be close to the European Banking Authority. When the new Authority is operational, the AML/CFT team currently assigned to the EBA, which is based in Paris, will be transferred to it.
However, Mindaugas Liutvinskas, the Ecofin representative from Lithuania and deputy minister of finance, did not follow the chair's lead and provided a compelling argument for why AMLA should visit the Baltics.
The Lithuanian representative said, "Vilnius is a beautiful town and we have put forward our bid building on our experience in this segment, and we will have further exchange of views on this specific element in the future, and I hope that the process will be transparent and balanced."
Sigrid Kaag, the Dutch minister of finance, stated that she "looks forward" to further discussions on the AML Package. She could not help but make a pitch, saying, "“I think The Netherlands is a beautiful country, and I think you all know that."
However, the significant issues the Netherlands is currently having with organized crime and drug cartels may work against placing AMLA in The Hague. The mayors of Amsterdam and Rotterdam only a week ago pleaded with the government for assistance in preventing the growth of mafia organizations that pose a threat to Dutch democracy.
The mayors wrote, "this is no longer a matter of short vicious turf wars for control of the drugs trade spilling over into wider society occasionally."
"The fact is that international drugs trafficking and the money laundering that goes with it are hugely increasing the wealth and power of the drugs underworld, with violent consequences."
They cautioned the government, saying, "we are now seeing violence as calculated displays of power, with the intention of weakening our democratic legal system."
Jan Struijs of the police union, NPB, issued similar cautions, referring to the Netherlands as "a narco-state" where drug crime was "rotting the pillars of society."
The Dutch government may argue that EUROPOL is headquartered there in response to the claim that AMLA is based in Holland.
Nadia Calvio, Spain's Minister for the Economy, urged a fair discussion of the authority's location. "Given that there are so many wonderful cities spread across Europe. I think it is important that we have a transparent procedure on which city gets the job."
"We do think that AMLA being in the direct neighbourhood of the European Court of Justice would also be a perfect location," said Yuriko Backes, Luxembourg's representative.
Given its history of secrecy and the flow of illicit funds, the Duchy receiving AMLA would undoubtedly be ironic.
The consistent application of AML/CFT regulations by member states and a more "harmonised supervision of selected/obligated entities" will help "close the gaps" in our regulatory framework, according to Italian Minister for Economic Affairs and Finance Daniele Franco.
He revealed that the financial intelligence units, which will be "instrumental to protect the integrity" of our financial system, had the strong support of the finance ministers.
Franco may have more knowledge than we realize. Although Milan is already a favorite, along with Paris and Frankfurt, and far ahead of Vienna and The Hague, it was not an outright pitch for the headquarters.
By fLEXI tEAM