Money laundering is the process of moving money from the illegitimate to the legitimate economy. The crime of money laundering consists of knowingly disguising the source, origin or ownership of illegal funds.
Any criminal transactions are carried out in cash and the function of the money launderer is often to translate these small sums into a larger, more liquid sum which will be difficult to trace and more easy to invest. Money laundering has emerged on a massive international scale with the globalization of the world economy and the internationalization of organized crime.
Money earned in one region can, with increasing facility, be transferred to another part of the world, preventing its eventual recovery by law enforcement. With the globalization of organized crime activity, money is earned in all regions of the world and must be collected, consolidated and moved.
This growth has been facilitated by new technologies, the increasing movement of goods and people globally and the declining significance of borders. A large number of professionals, including lawyers, accountants and bankers, have emerged to provide services to this criminal and corrupt clientele with large amounts of money at their disposal. Not involved in the original act, these professionals help perpetuate criminal and corrupt activities through their services. Organized crime groups have particularly benefited from the expansion of global financial markets. They have exploited the differential regulatory regimes and the possibility of moving money across jurisdictions rapidly in order to hinder detection by taking advantage of the discrepancies between country based regulatory systems.
They seek out locales that are less regulated with respect to international anti-money laundering laws. These havens, frequently offshore banking centers, provide both banking and corporate secrecy. They also provide secrecy for the trusts, which are used to hide large-scale assets that are often illegally diverted from the companies controlled by organized crime groups. In 1996 economists of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) suggested that 2 percent of global GDP (gross domestic product) was related to drug crime and the laundered sums associated with corruption and tax evasion would be an even larger percentage. The share of the world’s economy would be even higher today for several reasons as many forms of organized crime have grown in this period and the countermeasures have failed to dent the profits of this activity except at the margins.
Much laundered money has been invested in dollarized accounts and other strong currencies where it has escaped significant losses through currency devaluations in origin countries. In offshore regimes where financial capital is untaxed, its growth is faster than that of money that is part of taxed and regulated regimes. The range of businesses and financial institutions used to launder money has proliferated with the profits and the growing sums which need to be laundered. Among the institutions employed are large banks, offshore banks and financial institutions, currency exchange and wire transfer businesses, stock brokerage houses, gold dealers, casinos, insurance and trading companies.
The ability to safeguard the proceeds of transnational criminal activity, …