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Europe court backs Belgium law requiring lawyers to report money laundering

[JURIST] The European Court of Justice (ECJ) [official website; JURIST news archive] Tuesday upheld [judgment] a Belgian law codifying the European Union's Third Money Laundering Directive [PDF text], which obligates lawyers to report facts or suspicion of their client's money laundering. The law was challenged by Belgian bar associations, but the court held that the requirement does not infringe on the right to a fair trial [press release, PDF] because the obligation is not linked with any judicial proceedings. The ECJ further added that the right to a fair trial is not an absolute right, and can be balanced with the "particular threat" presented by money laundering to society in the European Union. The ECJ also said that law did not violate the lawyer-client privilege because it does not require lawyers to reveal legal advice unless the lawyer is also involved in the laundering activities or provided legal advice for the purposes of money laundering.

The EU directive, approved in October 2005, requires all EU member states to enact legislation incorporating the directive by December 15, 2007 and is intended to particularly target organized crime and terrorist financing operations. Dow Jones has more.

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