AML in Belgium

Belgium, one of the wealthiest nations in Europe, possesses a robust financial ecosystem that accommodates institutions and service providers from across the European Union and beyond. To counteract financial crimes such as money laundering and terrorism financing, Belgium has implemented several regulations pertaining to anti-money laundering (AML) and countering the financing of terrorism (CFT). These regulations necessitate banks and other financial service providers operating within Belgium to adhere to record-keeping and reporting obligations.

The Law of January 11, 1993, expressly prohibits money laundering in Belgium. Article 505 of the Penal Code criminalizes this act and carries a maximum prison sentence of five years. In January 2004, Belgium introduced domestic legislation in line with Council Directive 2001/97/EC, which broadened the range of money laundering predicate offenses beyond drug trafficking to include the financing of terrorist acts or organizations. In January 2010, this statute was further updated to incorporate the European Union’s third anti-money laundering directive.

The Belgian Banking and Finance Commission (CBFA) assumes regulatory control over Belgian financial institutions, including exchange houses, stock brokerages, and insurance firms, to prevent money laundering and terrorism financing. The Belgian Gaming Commission regulates casinos, while CTIF-CFI oversees professions that are not subject to regulation by the CBFA or other agencies.

The Financial Services and Markets Authority (FSMA) serves as Belgium’s primary regulatory body, responsible for safeguarding the integrity of the financial system and ensuring compliance with anti-money laundering and counter-terrorist financing measures. Financial institutions operating in Belgium should be familiar with the FSMA’s role and their obligations under Belgian legislation pertaining to anti-money laundering and counter-terrorist financing.

The FSMA, established on April 1, 2011, replaced the Banking Finance and Insurance Commission (CBFA). It operates as an autonomous public organization accountable to the Belgian parliament and is governed by a Royal Decree. Members of its governing bodies serve a term of six years. The creation of the FSMA by the Belgian government aimed to uphold the fair, transparent, and orderly functioning of the country’s financial markets. Consequently, the FSMA assumes oversight of all financial service providers, products, and supplemental pensions in Belgium. In its supervisory role, the FSMA collaborates with the National Bank of Belgium to achieve the following six objectives:

  • Monitoring and supervision of financial markets and information provided by financial institutions in Belgium
  • Ensuring compliance with business norms and regulations by institutions.
  • Oversight of financial products within Belgium.
  • Supervision of financial service providers and their brokers.
  • Surveillance of supplemental pension plans.
  • Promotion of financial education in Belgium.

Regulatory guidelines are published by the FSMA to enforce conduct standards for all financial institutions operating in Belgium, aligning with its regulatory objectives. These laws aim to ensure fair treatment and equal standards for financial services and products across the industry, while also enforcing specific safety requirements.

Being a member of the European Union, Belgium is obligated to adopt and incorporate the Anti-Money Laundering Directives (AMLD) of the bloc into its national laws. In accordance with this requirement, Belgium made amendments to its Legislation of September 18, 2017, concerning the prevention of money laundering and terrorist financing, as well as the restriction on the use of cash. These amendments were made to implement the Fifth Anti-Money Laundering Law (5AMLD), which was subsequently published in the Belgian Official Gazette. The revised legislation expanded the scope of AML/CFT regulations to encompass cryptocurrency service providers, prepaid cards, transactions involving high-value commodities, and introduced additional measures for beneficial ownership. This was in addition to the existing obligations related to reporting, record-keeping, and monitoring. The most recent directive, the Sixth Anti-Money Laundering Directive (6AMLD), came into effect in December 2020, with a compliance deadline set for June 3, 2021.