People view paying in cash “as a fundamental freedom, which should not be disproportionately restricted.”
The European Commission, in its official war on cash, admitted that physical cash is perhaps not quite the source of all evil that many EU institutions, including the Commission itself, had made it out to be. And it has abandoned its war on cash.
In a report to the European Parliament and Council on the viability of EU-wide cash payment restrictions, the Commission made three crucial observations.
1. Cash restrictions would have little effect on terrorist financing
Cash plays a major role in many terrorist activities, “offering anonymity and facilitating the ability to conceal not only illegal activities, but also ancillary legal transactions that could otherwise be tracked by law enforcement agencies,” the report points out. But according to the findings of a detailed analysis of recent terrorist attacks, restrictions on payments in cash would have had little impact on the capacity to prepare these attacks, especially given the “observed trend of the decreasing costs of terrorist attacks.”
The amounts of individual transactions are often even lower, and would therefore not have been impacted by restrictions. What’s more, many common transactions made in the preparation of recent terrorist attacks were done using traceable means (credit and debit cards, bank transfers, etc.) without raising any red flags.
2. Cash restrictions could be useful in combating money laundering but are of limited help against tax fraud.
The report notes that cash limits could be a useful tool in the fight against money laundering, of which cash transactions are normally the starting point. Despite the steady growth in non-cash payment methods and the changing face of criminality (i.e., the rise in cybercrime, online fraud and illicit online market places), criminal activities continue to generate profits in the form of large amounts of cash.
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