Eight EU countries including Cyprus, Portugal, the Netherlands and Hungary have been officially warned over their delays in applying new anti-money laundering rules.

All 27 EU states were required to bring into force tighter rules in January to counter risks in a wide range of sectors, including cryptocurrency exchanges, prepaid cards and shell companies. The European Commission has sent legal warnings to the eight countries who it says have failed to comply with the directive. It sent them a letter of ‘formal notice’, the first step of a lengthy legal procedure that could lead to fines if rules are not correctly applied.

EU lawmakers agreed on the new rules three years ago and then formally adopted them in 2018, but Cyprus, Hungary, the Netherlands, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia and Spain have not yet turned them into national laws.

The warnings show heightened attention by EU authorities for the fight against money laundering after a series of high-profile cases that hit major banks in the bloc in past years.