Eight more arrested in French, Belgian anti-terror raids

Meanwhile, EU ministers are considering an anti-money laundering measure to assist authorities in shutting down financial avenues for potential terror attacks.

Virginia Mayo/AP
European Commissioner for Economic and Monetary Affairs Pierre Moscovici, right, speaks with Greek Finance Minister Gikas Hardouvelis, left, and Spanish Economy Minister Luis de Guindos, center, during a meeting of EU finance ministers at the EU Council building in Brussels on Tuesday, Jan. 27, 2015. France is urging its EU partners to step up the fight against terror financing and will propose new measures to make sure transactions are more transparent.

Anti-terror raids in France and Belgium netted eight more suspects on Tuesday as Paris urged its European Union partners to step up the fight against terror financing with new measures to make transactions more transparent.

Interior minister Bernard Cazeneuve said that raids in southern France detained five people and broke up "one more network" in a small town that has seen several youths leave to fight in Syria and Iraq.

He pledged the country's "total mobilization" against terrorism would continue unabated after attacks around Paris earlier this month by three Islamic radicals left 20 people dead, including the gunmen.

In western Belgium, authorities detained three men and found a cache of arms in an operation linked to a terror threat, said prosecutor spokeswoman Karlien Ververken.

The detention could not immediately be linked to a raid in the eastern town of Verviers earlier this month that left two suspects dead and later put seven more behind bars. Belgian authorities said that raid had averted an imminent major terrorist attack against police and their offices.

At EU headquarters, French Finance Minister Michel Sapin said he wants to rapidly seal a new EU anti-money-laundering deal "and to accelerate other complementary measures to be able to locate all these small movements that are at the heart of terrorist financing."

France wants tighter cooperation on sharing intelligence related to money-laundering, tougher legislation on freezing suspects' assets, and to improve the ability of customs services to track gold and other assets.

Bank account registries and the control of virtual money like bitcoins could also be discussed.

The new EU money-laundering plans aim to ensure that the real owners of companies and trusts are listed in public registers in Europe, and to force banks, auditors, lawyers and others to be more vigilant about suspicious transactions.

Mindful of the attacks in France, and raids and arrests in other EU countries including Belgium, Germany, Greece and Spain, finance ministers want to fast-track the package, and discuss the new French initiatives in parallel.

Dutch Finance Minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem said it is "crucial to cut off all terrorist groups of financing means, and any proposal that would lead to that I would very much support."

"We will look very positively at new initiatives," said Denmark's economy minister, Morten Ostergaard.

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