Financial investigation in the European Union

Financial investigation in the European Union

Financial investigation was one of the priorities of the Ministry of Security and Justice during the Dutch Presidency of the European Union in the first half of 2016.

In preparation of this presidency, Ecorys conducted a study on the needs for tools and methods of financial investigation in the European Union. The central question of this study is to assess which tools would and methods help law enforcement best in stepping up the use of financial investigations and cross-border cooperation in this field. Financial investigations are carried out for the purpose of criminal investigations (including conviction based asset confiscation), but also in civil investigations (including non-conviction based asset confiscation), tax investigations, and social service investigations. Our study focuses on financial investigations in the context of criminal investigations.

The study is based on interviews with investigators and policy experts, interviews with representatives of the European Commission (DG HOME, Europol, Eurojust, Olaf, CEPOL and FIU); a questionnaire sent to both investigators and policy advisors across different European Member States and academic literature and policy document research.

The study revealed that financial investigation should primarily be considered as an investigation method that enables investigators to collect analyses and use financial information. Current needs, as expressed by police investigators across Europe, are more related to strategies, culture, collaboration and knowledge sharing, than to specific operational gaps and requirements. There is definitely potential for improvement of technical tools available to financial investigators (for example tools related to data and information analysis), however such improvements will not be effective without overarching national strategies and organisational willingness to experiment with the implementation of financial investigation methods. Another important area for improvement is related to cross-border financial investigations, in particular cooperation and information exchange with third countries.


Slot, B. and L. de Swart, Needs assessment on tools and methods of financial investigation in the European Union, Ecorys, Rotterdam, 2015. 

A presentation at the conference ‘Follow the Money: tools for financial investigations’, organised by the Netherlands Presidency on 10 and 11 February 2016 in Amsterdam.

The Council of the European Union explicitly referred to the Ecorys study and Ecorys presentation in its formulation of policy principles on financial investigation: Draft Council Conclusions and Action Plan on the way forward with regard to financial investigation. 

8 February 2019

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