What is money laundering?

Various crimes such as corruption, human trafficking, illegal arms sales, embezzlement, insider trading, cyber fraud schemes and illegal drug deals generate large amounts of money for wrongdoers. However, they need to disguise the dirty money’s illegal origin to use it for legitimate purposes. For the purpose, criminals put significant time and effort to devise and execute strategies to conceal the origins of illegally obtained money so that it can be used as they wish. Money laundering is this illegal process of disguising the source of ill-gotten money to make it legitimate. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNDOC) defines money laundering as “the method by which criminals disguise the illegal origins of their wealth and protect their asset bases, so as to avoid the suspicion of law enforcement agencies and prevent leaving a trail of incriminating evidence.”

In most cases, criminals use a complex sequence of banking or commercial transactions to disguise the illegality of criminal profits so that criminal proceeds are accounted without being caught by law enforcement agencies. They spend time to devise and execute strategies for the purpose. The execution of such strategies is generally called money laundering activities. Criminals use successfully laundered money for legitimate purchases and investments. Sometimes, the end of goal of money laundering is to channel the money to terrorists and terrorist organisations to fund their criminal acts. Some countries consider obfuscation of money sources as money laundering. Here, the mere use of financial systems or services that do not identify or track sources or destinations can amount to the crime.

Available Statistics on Money Laundering

It is difficult to estimate the total amount of money being laundered because of the secretive nature of the crime. However, there are certain estimates that point to the grotesqueness of the crime. According to the UNDOC, the amount of money being laundered across the globe every year is equivalent to 2-5% of global GDP, or USD800 billion – USD2 trillion. It is important to note that there are multiple crimes that generate hundreds of billions of dollars every year for criminal enterprises. For example, drug trafficking is estimated to make between USD426 billion and USD652 billion in proceeds every year. Meanwhile, human trafficking is more than USD150-billion/year criminal business.

There have been attempts to measure the money laundering risk of countries. One such measure is the Basel AML Index which ranks 125 countries on five domains: quality of AML/CFT framework, bribery and corruption, financial transparency and standards, public transparency and accountability, and legal and political risks. The 10 countries with the highest money laundering risk according to the Basel AML Index 2019 are given in the table below.

Basel AML Index 2019 - Top 10 countries

Independent research within/about some countries also points out the seriousness of the crime.

  • As estimated USD6 billion in drug profits is estimated to be laundered via the black-market peso exchange system in Colombia.
  • In the UK, crime proceeds are estimated between £19 billion-£48 billion per year, according to customs authorities.
  • In Bangkok, laundered criminal money is projected at 15% of the country’s GDP (USD28.5 billion), according to a 1996 report published by Chulalongkorn University.
  • A conservative estimate of profits generated by Mexican drug cartels is about USD 9 billion per year.
  • In Canada, Illicit funds generated and laundered amounted to USD5 billion to USD17 billion, according to a 1998 comment by the Canadian Solicitor General.
  • According to the Swiss Finance Ministry’s estimates in 1998, the country was implicated in USD500 billion laundered money every year.
  • In Indonesia, an amount of USD500,000 is washed per week by West Africans and Southeast Asians using West African Couriers, according to a US law enforcement agency.
  • Money laundering activity in Italy totaled more than USD50 billion per year, according to informal estimates in 1997.

Stages of Money Laundering

The purpose of money laundering is to convert dirty money into clean money. In order to do that, criminals used to transact money across various financial institutions and countries in various forms of assets or investments, before the money reaches its intended destination. A typical money laundering activity involves three stages:

  1. Placement: It is the first stage of money laundering and it involves the introduction of ill-gotten money into the financial system by some means. By doing this, the criminal is able to remove the money from the original location of acquisition to avoid detection by law enforcement authorities. For example, a criminal may purchase financial instruments such as cheques and money orders to be deposited into accounts in another location.
  2. Layering: In the next stage, the criminal carries out complex financial transactions to camouflage the illegal source of the cash. Here, the money can be transferred across multiple institutions and jurisdictions and can also change its form. Money can be transformed into bonds, gold, luxury goods, real estate or even loan repayments. Criminals may also do multiple wire transfers between multiple accounts of different individuals to increase complexity. In order to avoid suspicion, they may break a large amount of money into small amounts. The method is known as smurfing.
  3. Integration: It involves acquiring wealth or spending on legitimate business activities by using ‘now-laundered money’. At this stage, money reaches the intended destination in a legitimate form. Successful integration of criminal money into the economic or financial system means a successful money laundering attempt. Typically, it is very difficult to catch the criminal if the money reaches this stage.

The stages of money laundering are represented in the image below.

stages-of-money-laundering

Please note that some of these steps may not be there in some money laundering cases. For example, non-cash proceeds that are already in the financial system need not be placed.

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Tookitaki has been listed among 8 Fintech startups in Asia for FinTech Program: Asia meets Tokyo, an accelerator launched by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government (TMG). We have been selected for our anti...

AML Alert Management: How AI can Augment Your Compliance Efficiency

The financial sector is facing one monster of a problem at the moment. As today’s financial institutions deal with millions of daily transactions, several thousands of routine financial transactions...

Tookitaki Recognised for Innovative Use of AI & Machine Learning

Tookitaki has won the Regtech Award for AI & Machine Learning and was highly commended in the solutions category for AML/CTF Compliance, in the 3rd Regulation Asia Awards for Excellence 2020 ...

Our UOB Success Tale: Setting a New Benchmark for AI-based AML Compliance

Tookitaki achieved a rare and historic milestone as our Anti-Money Laundering Suite (AMLS) solution went live within the premises of United Overseas Bank (UOB), one of the top 3 banks in Singapore.

Tookitaki Wins 2020 WITSA Digital Innovation Award

Tookitaki has won the 2020 Digital Innovation Award from the World Information Technology and Services Alliance (WITSA) as part of the industry body’s Global ICT Excellence Awards. Nominated by...

Money Laundering via Cryptocurrencies: All You Need to Know

Money laundering via cryptocurrency has been going on for a while now. We’ve all heard of Bitcoin, Ethereum and Dogecoin. Crypto is used by financial criminals globally but how are they getting away...

CNA 938 radio interviews Tookitaki Co-founder Jeeta Badopadhyay

Tookitaki Co-founder and COO Jeeta Bandopadhyay was named among the Singapore 100 Women in Tech (SG100WIT) List in September 2020. A collaboration between the Singapore Computer Society (SCS), IMDA, S...

Need for New Customer Risk Rating Models: Not All Customers Are Created Equal

Being estimated at between US$800 billion to US$2 trillion every year, money laundering is a serious problem for the global economy. While regulators and financial institutions are working hard to pre...

Is AML Compliance Heading for a New Normal in the Age of Digital Payments?

Increased digitization has influenced various businesses and brought in a paradigm shift in the way they create business models and approach growth opportunities. Moving away from conventional transac...

Excel to AI: How Reconciliation Tools Evolve for Better

In the world of finance, reconciliation is the process of comparing two related sets of records or two accounts at the end of a specific accounting period to find out if account balances are matching ...

Lessons Not Well Learned: 2020 AML Fines Cross 2019 Total

If research is to be believed, institutions across the globe have not done enough in the anti-money laundering (AML) compliance area. Data from consultancy Duff & Phelps revealed that AML fines in...

Exploring AML Risks in COVID-Era and the Ways to Address Them

The world continues to battle the COVID-19 pandemic and the crisis it brought in is unprecedented in the history of humankind. While there are a number of pandemic-related factors contributing to the ...

AML Amid COVID-19: Watch out for These FBI-listed Fraud Schemes

There has been a rise in the number of cybercrimes and fraud schemes across the globe ever since the proliferation of the COVID-19 pandemic. Criminals, in general, are taking advantage of people’s s...

OCC Spring Risk Perspective: 5 Takeaways on Compliance Risk

Despite its general strength, the US federal banking system is apparently susceptible to the ongoing economic weakness caused by the rampant spread of coronavirus. Earlier this month, The US Office of...

How Criminals Used COVID-19 Sales Pitch to Defraud, Launder Money

As the world is working hard to contain the spread of the COVID-19, criminals continue to take advantage of the pandemic. They are devising sophisticated methods to defraud people and launder the crim...

5 Top Myths and Facts about AI Implementation in AML Programs

We are more confirmed about the power of Artificial Intelligence (AI) to transform lives and businesses now. There are countless possible applications of AI and machine learning at present, and we see...

Typology Repository Management: Solving AML Problems Via Collective Intelligence and Continuous Learning

Despite its general strength, the US federal banking system is apparently susceptible to the ongoing economic weakness caused by the rampant spread of coronavirus. Earlier this month, The US Office of...

Whitepaper: Automated AML Pattern Detection Using Network Science

Despite its general strength, the US federal banking system is apparently susceptible to the ongoing economic weakness caused by the rampant spread of coronavirus. Earlier this month, The US Office of...

Money Laundering Amid COVID-19: What Regulators Across Globe Say

As the world continues to fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, there are reports that criminals are taking advantage of the difficult situation. They are seizing the moment to proliferate their crimin...

How will Art Cease to Be a Preferred Money Laundering Vehicle?

Money laundering via high-end art and antiquities is not new yet it is difficult to detect. Art-related money laundering amounts to about US$3 billion per year, according to this blog, quoting the Uni...

Beware! Money Mules in Demand amid COVID-19. Here’s an Effective Cure

If reports are to be believed, cybercrooks are taking advantage of the COVID-19 situation. They are targeting people who were laid off or working from home due to the pandemic to work for them as mone...

How do we weather a tornado of change?

“Great works are performed not by strength but by perseverance” – Samuel Johnson All of us are in challenging times. However, we cannot afford to be lethargic to life, work, and busi...

Roundtable Rewind: Embracing Next-gen Tech & Collaboration Key to Sustainability

As a regtech player with a vision to enable sustainable compliance programs in financial institutions, Tookitaki organized a first-of-its-kind industry roundtable in Charlotte, NC, USA to discuss oppo...

Tookitaki Appoints Industry Veteran Joe Friscia as Advisor

Tookitaki Holding Pte. Ltd. appointed industry veteran Joe Friscia, former President of NICE Actimize and BAE Systems as Advisor to the Company’s Advisory Board. Joe brings over 25 years’ extensi...

Should Modern Machines Be Ethical?

There are mounting concerns across the globe about the reliability and safety of artificial intelligence (AI) based systems and its enabling technologies such as machine learning (ML). On the air are ...

Tookitaki Raises Another US$11.7 million in Series A; Closes Round at US$19.2 million

– by Abhishek Chatterjee, Founder & CEO The Tookitaki team and I are excited to announce that we have raised an additional US$11.7 million in Series A funding, taking the total investment in...

30 Years of FATF: Notable Facts About Global AML Watchdog

The Financial Action Task Force (FATF), the intergovernmental body formed in 1989 to combating money laundering, is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year. Since its inception, the global agency p...

Tookitaki Joins Aite Financial Crime Forum as Sponsor

Technological advances have fundamentally changed the operational landscape of financial institutions. However, there are also new risks emerging in forms of sophisticated financial frauds and complex...

Will Machine Learning Replace Compliance Professionals?

The impact of modern technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning on job security has been a widely discussed topic today. Of course, AI has advanced very quickly in the last...

6 Most Prevalent Cyber-Laundering Methods in APAC

Despite being a medium to exchange information in real-time and with scale, the Internet is being misused in several ways. Among the slew of financial crimes facilitated by the Internet, money launder...

What Made Us Earn the WEF Technology Pioneer Title

Tookitaki has bagged another global acknowledgement for its outstanding works in the regulatory compliance field. Our company was selected among hundreds of candidates as one of the World Economic Fo...

We Stay as a Team, We Win as a Team and We Flourish as a Team

“Teamwork is the ability to work together toward a common vision. The ability to direct individual accomplishments toward organizational objectives. It is the fuel that allows common people to a...

ABA Regulatory Compliance Conference: 10 Sessions You Can’t Miss

The 2019 edition of the American Bankers Association (ABA) Regulatory Compliance Conference is a few more days away. Organized by the Washington, D.C.-based trade association, the conference is touted...

Tookitaki AMLS Wins SBR Technology Excellence Award 2019

Tookitaki’s Anti-Money Laundering Suite (AMLS), an end-to-end machine learning-powered transaction monitoring and names screening solution, has bagged the inaugural Singapore Business Review Tec...

Watchdogs Grow Optimistic about AI Prospects at Banks

Proper regulation of banking operations is important as any failure in the banking system would affect the wider economy. Therefore, banking is one of the most regulated industries across the globe. F...

Pitfall of Black Box AI at Banks: Explaining Your Models to Regulators

The use cases of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning in front-office, middle-office and back-office activities at banks are growing slowly but steadily. The major areas of AI play includ...

AI for Regulatory Compliance at Banks: 4 Assessments Before You Okay the Solution Proposal

Banking is one of the industries where artificial intelligence and machine learning find their applications at a rapid pace. Regulatory compliance within banking is an area which has become a costly a...

We Believe in Innovation, the Key to Survival and Growth

“Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower.” -Steve Jobs What comes on the top of your screen when you google the meaning of the word innovation is – the introduction of somet...

Compliance Functions in Need of a Technological Overhaul. Can Machine Learning be the Game-Changer?

McKinsey in its latest compliance benchmarking survey found that compliance function at financial institutions has reached “an inflection point” and current compliance standards are in an “incho...

Tookitaki Raises US$7.5 mn Series A from Global VCs to Transform Regulatory Compliance

Tookitaki, a regulatory technology company that aims to enable financial institutions to develop sustainable compliance programs, has raised US$7.5 million in Series A round. The round was co-led by L...

The Biggest Money Laundering Cases: From Wachovia to Danske Bank

Money laundering – the criminal activity of processing criminal proceeds to disguise their origin – is one of the gravest problems faced by the global economy, and its size is growing rapidly. It ...

A Modern Approach to Address the Reconciliation Challenges of Financial Services

Reconciliation of transactions is deemed critical for the smooth running of every financial institution. The speed and accuracy of data reconciliation can distinguish a successful institution from its...

Busting a Myth: Compliance Officer’s Job is All About Risk

Regulatory compliance has become a dreadful task for banks after regulators across the globe set stricter norms in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis in an effort to prevent financial crimes s...

Attending ACAMS Conference in Singapore? Tookitaki Awaits You with Its Disruptive AML Solution

“In today’s era of volatility, there is no other way but to re-invent. The only sustainable advantage you can have over others is agility, that’s it.”- Jeff Bezos Singapore is hosting ACAMS’...

MAS’ Stress on Transaction Monitoring for Effective AML/CFT Compliance and Machine Learning is the Answer

Singapore is known for its top-notch AML/CFT regime created through up-to-date legislation, stringent policy and uncompromising supervision to safeguard against the abuse of the city state’s financi...

Mifid II and the Pressing Need for a New Reconciliation Approach

The financial services industry in the EU has been confused with the introduction of a revamped version of the Markets in Financial Instruments Directive (Mifid II). The ambitious regulatory reforms t...

Is Automated Reconciliation Next to Impossible in Today’s Complex Financial World?

The 2008 global financial crisis and fairly new regulatory requirements like Basel III asked financial institutions (FIs) to cut operating costs and adopt a lean operations structure, pushing FIs to r...

Modern Tech to Reshape US AML Compliance with Regulators’ Recent Handshake

George Bernard Shaw once said: “Those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.” The past week has seen a significant change of mind from financial regulators in the US in their ardent...

Skills Development: We Have Talents and We Strive to Multiply Them

“Mastery lies on an infinite continuum, and as a result, we will never reach the end. We can, however, see to it that we are as far along that continuum as our circumstance allows.” ― Chris Mat...

It’s Our Fourth Founding Day; Taking a Pause to Cherish Our Simple but Awesome Journey

Today, as we step into our 4th year of foundation, I feel proud and honored to be leading Tookitaki that has been successful in creating added value to all its stakeholders. I was never a CEO and Took...

Tookitaki Expands into the US with New Office in Charlotte

SINGAPORE, Sept. 24, 2018: Tookitaki Holding Pte Ltd, a leading regulatory technology company, is pleased to announce the official opening of its North American office in Charlotte, NC, in the Unite...

We Tame Machines but We Unleash Human Spirits

We are well aware of the fact that our progress as an organization is in the hands of our employees. The more energy, time and attention we invest in them, the more yield we receive. So, we always mak...

5 Modern Money Laundering Methods That Criminals Use

Modern money launderers are updating their methods to beat detection and avoid getting caught every single day. Where there is new technology, cryptocurrencies and processes, there is a money laundere...

Risk Management Conference: Positive Vibes from All Corners

The Risk Management Association’s (RMA) premier annual event, the Risk Management Conference, came to an end on 6 November, and Tookitaki had the privilege to attend the event which we believe was ...

Singapore Fintech Festival: Tookitaki to showcase advanced machine learning solutions in financial services

Singapore is assured of the Fintech world’s unwavering attention next week, as the city state, is hosting this year’s Fintech Festival during 12-16 November. Touted as the world’s largest platfo...

The RMA Clarion Call to Address Risks and the Tookitaki Way

Risk officers, doing your best today is good while preparing hard for tomorrow is extraordinary. Risk management at banks has become difficult due to operational and regulatory changes. The Risk Manag...