A Romanian court had sentenced an individual to imprisonment for money laundering. The proceeds of crime in question were the proceeds of tax evasion committed by the same individual. As part of an appeal (which was subsequently withdrawn), it was argued that MLD4, specifically Article 1(3)(a) meant that a person who commits an underlying predicate offence which creates the proceeds of crime cannot also commit the relevant money laundering offence. It was claimed that as the money laundering offence is a “consequential” offence resulting from the predicate offence, then the perpetrator of a money laundering offence cannot also be the perpetrator of the predicate offence. The argument was that the wording in the Recitals and text of MLD4 around “knowing that” proceeds were the proceeds of crime would make sense only if the two offences were different. This question was submitted to the Court of Justice for a preliminary ruling.
The Court said it was necessary to consider not just the wording of the relevant provision but also its context. In its view, the wording that states a person must know property is derived from criminal activity in order to commit a money laundering offence requires merely that the person is aware of the criminal origin of the property. It does not rule out that the individual may be the one who committed the original offence.
As a result, the Court found that the money laundering directives did not preclude the possibility that one individual could commit both a predicate offence and the money laundering offence relating to the proceeds of that predicate offence. Therefore, Member States were not precluded from reflecting this in their national laws.