Money laundering is concealing or disguising the identity of illegally obtained proceeds so that they appear to have originated from legitimate sources. It is frequently a component of other, much more serious, crimes such as drug trafficking, robbery or extortion.
Money laundering is omnipresent and found in areas where it might least be expected, such as environmental crimes. The advent of cryptocurrency, such as bitcoins, has exacerbated this phenomenon.
Criminal gangs move illegally obtained funds around the globe using banks, shell companies, intermediaries and money transmitters, attempting to integrate the illegal funds in legal businesses and economies. Nowadays, money mules play a key role in this context. These are people who act as intermediaries for criminal gangs, even when they are not aware of the fact they are laundering illegal funds.
Going back to the roots
The investigation of money laundering usually goes hand in hand with the investigation of the original crime generating the proceeds. Financial investigations aim to identify the origins, flows and whereabouts of illicit income and unmask the networks involved. Illegally acquired assets can then be frozen or confiscated and the perpetrators of both the original offences and the subsequent money laundering prosecuted.
Bringing civil society on board
Coordinating a tailored response to such sophisticated phenomena requires close cooperation with partner organizations. We work with groups such as the Egmont Group body of 159 Financial Intelligence Units, the inter-governmental Financial Action Task Force (FATF) and the FATF-linked Regional Anti-Money Laundering bodies.
Branching out into forestry crimes
There is no shortage of possibilities for channeling illicit funds into criminal enterprises; for example illegal logging. Here, police need to go after the financiers, the logging cartels and the illegal assets. With the support of the German Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture, we launched a project on financial investigations related to the forestry sector. This aims to strengthen the capacity of countries in the Asia-Pacific region to conduct financial investigations related to forestry crime.
Training in West Africa
We have also initiated capacity building initiatives on the investigation of money laundering for member countries in West Africa to boost their investigative skills and enhance connectivity.