Cash transactions may be limited to €10,000 in future

Money.
Money. Source: Siim Lõvi /ERR

Financial transfers may be capped at €10,000 in the future after the Ministry of the Interior voiced its support for a European Commission anti-money laundering initiative. The Bank of Estonia has hesitations.

If a person goes to a store, makes an expensive purchase and hands over €10,000 in cash, the cashier needs to identify the client in case of money laundering.

However. according to adviser to the Ministry of the Interior Mati Ombler this regulation is of little use to counter money laundering and suspicious activities are rarely reported.

Due to this, the ministry has said it supports the European Commissions' plan to ban cash purchases of over €10,000 in the future between companies.

Advisor of the Ministry of Finance Sören Meius said that transactions between private people will not be affected by the restriction.

He said that two-thirds of the European Union already limit cash transactions. For example, the limit in Belgium is €3,000 and in Greece €1,500.

The commission believes people who do not stick to the limit support terrorism and want to launder money.

"Various studies in recent years have estimated that at least 2 percent of the world's GDP is laundered by money laundering schemes. This is still a very significant form of crime that can be prevented by various measures. And one of them is to limit this cash flow," Ombler said.

However, the Bank of Estonia is cautious about the plan.

Head of the Cash and Infrastructure Department of the Bank of Estonia Rait Roosve said the percentage of transactions made with cash has decreased in recent years but 10 percent of people still prefer it to cards.

However, more cash is circling in the economy. Roosve said the previous economic crisis was one reason as some people prefer to save cash and it is important for business continuity.

This is why the bank recommends the limit be carefully analyzed. "This limit should really be anti-money laundering, but it should in no way interfere with people's daily payment habits and daily payment environment," Roosve said.

In which sector can cash payments of more than €10,000 still be used has not been studied. Based on data from other countries, Roosve said jewelry, art and design.

"But I am convinced that this is not really a big and fundamental problem in Estonia," he admitted.

Member of the board of real estate company Pindi Kinnisvara Peep Sooman said the days when property was paid for with cash are long gone: "More and more people have started asking about the origin of cash and the parties of the transaction realized that it also involves legal risks a decade ago."

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Editor: Roberta Vaino, Helen Wright

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