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EU dismisses claims that U.S. guilty of financial spying

Guy Verhofstadt, former Belgian prime minister and leader of the liberals in the European Parliament, answers reporters' questions during th
Guy Verhofstadt, former Belgian prime minister and leader of the liberals in the European Parliament, answers reporters' questions during th

By Tom Körkemeier

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The European Commission has dropped its investigation into suspected abuse by the United States of a financial database to snoop in the European Union, rejecting EU lawmakers' calls to freeze its access.

The move is a setback for the European Parliament that called last month to suspend Washington's ability to track international payments because of suspicions that it trawled too deeply for information, abusing an agreement giving it limited access to the SWIFT database in Belgium.

The EU shares data with the U.S. Treasury from SWIFT, which exchanges millions of messages on transactions across the world every day, but only on a limited basis to help intercept possible terrorism plots.

Last month, Guy Verhofstadt, a prominent member of the European Parliament, told Reuters that Europe needed "full transparency" because of the U.S. National Security Agency surveillance made public by fugitive former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.

EU lawmakers worry the United States is covertly drawing extra information from the database following leaked U.S. documents aired by Globo, Brazil's biggest television network, indicating that the U.S. government has secretly tapped into SWIFT.

But Cecilia Malmstrom, Europe's commissioner for home affairs, said on Tuesday she had not found any proof of wrongdoing.

"The European Commission is therefore closing the official consultations opened with the US," she said in a statement.

Malmstrom said that she would stay alert to any unlawful U.S. behavior but had already warned the European Parliament she had no immediate plans to propose a suspension of SWIFT to EU members.

The United States denies any wrongdoing.

The agreement is part of transatlantic cooperation following the September 11, 2001 attacks on U.S. cities.

(Reporting by Tom Koerkemeier; writing by Robin Emmott; editing by John O'Donnell)

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