Money laundering

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Money laundering is generally regarded as the practice of engaging in financial transactions to conceal the identity, source, and/or destination of illegally gained money by which the proceeds of crime are converted into assets which appear to have a legitimate origin. In the United Kingdom the statutory definition is wider[1]. It is common to refer to money legally obtained as “clean”, and money illegally obtained as “dirty”.

Money laundering occurs over a period of three steps, which include the physical distribution of the cash (“placement”), the second step involves carrying out complex financial transactions in order to camouflage the illegal source (“layering”), and the final step which entails acquiring wealth generated from the transactions of the illicit funds (“integration”).

In the past, the term money laundering was applied only to financial transactions related to organized crime. Today its definition is often expanded by government and international regulators such as the U.S. Office of the Comptroller of the Currency to mean any financial transaction which generates an asset or a value as the result of an illegal act, which may involve actions such as tax evasion or false accounting. In the UK, it does not even need to involve money, but any economic good. Courts involve money laundering committed by private individuals, drug dealers, businesses, corrupt officials, members of criminal organizations such as the Mafia, and even states.

As financial crime has become more complex, and "Financial Intelligence" (FININT) has become more recognized in combating international crime and terrorism, money laundering has become more prominent in political, economic, and legal debate. Money laundering is ipso facto illegal; the acts generating the money almost always are themselves criminal in some way (for if not, the money would not need to be laundered).


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