OpinionAnti-Money Laundering Authority

A test of patience to Frankfurt's advantage

The application procedure for the Anti-Money Laundering Authority (AMLA) has begun. Nevertheless, it is not expected to move swiftly, which could work to the advantage of the Federal Ministry of Finance.

A test of patience to Frankfurt's advantage

"AMLA, go home. Go Vilnius": Months ago, Lithuania advertised in the heart of the European district on digital billboards to win the favor of Brussels legislators, aiming to bring the Anti-Money Laundering Authority (AMLA) to its capital. Dublin invested in an XXL panorama ad in the corridors of Brussels airport to compete for AMLA.

Not only the public presence of some contenders shows: The competition for Frankfurt in the battle for the Anti-Money Laundering Authority is significant, and they are putting in a mighty effort. Paris, Madrid, Rome, Vienna, Luxembourg: The list of competitors is long – and now it's getting serious as the EU Commission officially opens the application process.

No "ketchup bottle effect"

Initially, there was little movement, but now, the progress has suddenly sped up. However, those banking on the "ketchup bottle effect" for AMLA might be in for a disappointment. The EU Council still seems unwilling to grant European Parliament members the level of influence that the European Court of Justice has affirmed. Who will be responsible for deciding on the location of the AMLA is unclear.

It continues to be a test of patience. This could potentially work to Frankfurt's advantage. While early starter Vilnius boldly promotes its recognized low money laundering risk ("A squeaky clean home"), Germany lags behind in this regard.

International body Financial Action Task Force highlights deficiencies in Germany. The abbreviation FATF has strategically found its way into the criteria for the location search. As heard in Brussels, it entered the tender process at the behest of interested parties.

Poorer ratings for Germany

Germany receives poorer ratings than other AMLA contenders like France, Spain, and Italy, represented by Paris, Madrid, and Rome respectively. The apparent struggles of the German Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) and the accumulation of suspicious activity reports won't impress the AMLA jury.

But the Federal Financial Crimes Police Authority (Bundesfinanzkriminalamt) might strengthen Germany's application. If it launches as planned in 2024, this could be a crucial selling point in the AMLA race, as highlighted in the Finance Ministry's application dossier.