INTERPOL's definition of money laundering is: "any act or attempted act to conceal or disguise the identity of illegally obtained proceeds so that they appear to have originated from legitimate sources".
Illegally obtained funds are laundered and moved around the globe using and abusing shell companies, intermediaries and money transmitters. In this way, the illegal funds remain hidden and are integrated into legal business and into the legal economy.
At INTERPOL, we work to combat money laundering through the global exchange of data, supporting operations in the field, and bringing together experts from the variety of sectors concerned. We work closely with other international organizations to foster international awareness of the importance of using financial investigative techniques against organized criminal activities and to avoid duplication of effort.
In recent years, the INTERPOL General Assembly has passed a number of resolutions calling on member countries to concentrate their investigative resources in identifying, tracing and seizing the assets of criminal enterprises.
These resolutions have called on member countries to increase the exchange of information in this field and encourage governments to adopt laws and regulations that would allow access, by police, to the financial records of criminal organizations and confiscation of proceeds gained by criminal activity.
- AGN/55/RES/18 (1986): Economic and financial crime; cooperation between the police and the banking and financial institutions and associations
- AGN/56/RES/11 (1987): Cooperation between the banking and financial institutions and associations and law enforcement agencies
- AGN/60/RES/4 (1991): Measures to deal firmly and effectively with the System of illegal international financial transactions: underground and parallel banking.
- AGN/66/RES/15 (1997): Money laundering: Legislation
- AGN/66/RES/17 (1997): Money laundering: Investigations and international police cooperation
- AGN/66/RES/18 (1997): Money laundering: Statistics
We supported Operation Atlas, the first worldwide joint customs operation targeting the bulk smuggling of cash across borders. Led by the World Customs Organization (WCO) and the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the operation in 2009 resulted in the seizure of approximately USD 3.5 million, with active participation from 70 countries. As well as giving access to our databases, we sent an INTERPOL Major Events Support Team to the WCO to assist the five-day operational phase in October and ensure a 24-hour response to this global activity.
Conferences and expertise
A working group on Money Laundering and Terrorism Financing provides expert advice on developing the Organization's ability to facilitate investigations into money laundering and terrorism financing through effective and wider information sharing. The group works with other international organizations and the private sector in order to share best practice, knowledge and expertise.
We have co-organized with the World Customs Organization (WCO) two conferences on illicit cash couriers (in 2008 and 2009). These meetings provide an opportunity for police and customs officials to devise joint efforts to combat money laundering across the globe, in particular the practice known as ‘cash couriers’. This is the illicit cash transportation, particularly by criminal and terrorist organizations, which poses a serious threat to global economic stability.