MPs reject bill on prevention of money laundering

Ljubljana – Parliament rejected on Wednesday the government’s bill on the prevention of money laundering and terrorism financing. The government argued the law was to improve the current system, while a major part of the opposition said it infringed the protection of personal data and included overly broad powers in relevant investigating.

Presenting the bill in parliament on Tuesday, Finance Ministry State Secretary Maja Hostnik Kališek said the main objective of the proposal was to transpose three European directives into the Slovenian legislation, adding it was also aimed at improving the anti-money laundering system.

“The powers of the office in charge of prevention of money laundering with regard to the processing of personal data are not to change significantly, nor are the powers of inspectors,” she told MPs.

The proposal was defeated in a 31:51 vote. While the coalition Democrats (SDS) and New Slovenia (NSi) expressed support for the bill, it was rejected by nearly all the other deputy factions.

“Slovenia is committed to complying with the international standards and recommendations of the international Financial Action Task Force, as they provide us with access to relevant international financial, administrative and other information,” said Elena Zavadlav Ušaj from the SDS yesterday.

“The law contains a number of improvements that do not affect the concept of the existing law,” said Jožef Horvat, an MP for the NSi, who argued that the new legislation would also ensure a more effective management of the risk of money laundering and terrorism financing by eliminating certain inconsistencies and ambiguities.

The coalition Concretely voted against it, whereas the opposition Pensioners’ Party (DeSUS) appeared to have been somewhat divided on the issue. One of its MPs voted in favour and one against, while another two were not present. Hungarian minority MP Ferenc Horvath voted in favour and Italian minority MP Felice Žiža abstained.

The opposition National Party (SNS) also opposed the bill. It said yesterday that the law was incomplete in a number of places and contradicted constitutional provisions, while also giving the competent office unlimited powers to process personal data and infringe on privacy.

“The law is certainly a good tool for whoever is in power, but very dangerous for the targeted persons,” SNS MP Jani Ivanuša said.

The centre-left opposition Marjan Šarec List (LMŠ), Social Democrats (SD), Left, Alenka Bratušek Party (SAB) and the group of unaffiliated MPs strongly opposed the law, announcing earlier it would be challenged at the Constitutional Court if passed.

They believe it would disproportionately infringe on citizens’ privacy and allow political reckoning with opponents of the government.

Andreja Zabret of the LMŠ said the bill allowed the misuse of data for political and other purposes, and Predrag Baković from the SD noted the system in question needed upgrading, but not in this way, describing the law as “a new attempt at an unacceptable expansion of the repressive powers of state authorities”. He highlighted the government had drafted the proposal without coordinating with key stakeholders and experts.

The Left also warned the bill did not contain any safeguards, criteria or oversight when it comes to probes into alleged money laundering. The office’s powers in processing personal data would be unlimited, opening doors to invasions of privacy and abuse and allowing for the maximum concentration of citizens’s data under the same roof, the SAB and unaffiliated MPs added.

Prior to the vote, the media reported that if passed, the bill would make it possible for inspectors to enter business or private premises without a court warrant. Moreover, banks would have to report all transactions above EUR 15,000 to the office, regardless of whether these transactions are considered risky under the criteria for money laundering or terrorism financing.