Money laundering and terrorist financing

Money laundering and terrorist financing

Money laundering is a fundamentally simple concept; it is the process by which proceeds from a criminal activity are disguised to conceal their illicit origins. Likewise, the financing of terrorism is also a simple concept; it is the financial support of terrorist acts or those who encourage, plan, or engage in terrorism. Money laundering and terrorist financing often display similar transactional features, most having to do with concealment. Money launderers send illicit proceeds through legal channels so as to conceal their criminal origins, while those who finance terrorism transfer funds that may be legal or illicit in origin in such a way as to conceal their source and ultimate use, which is the support of terrorism.

By their very nature, money laundering and terrorist financing are geared towards secrecy and do not lend themselves to statistical analysis. Money launderers do not document the extent of their operations or publicize the amount of their profits, nor do those who finance terrorism. Moreover, because these activities take place on a global basis, estimates are even more difficult to produce.

Previous attempts to estimate the size of the problem using a money laundering proxy have largely proved unsuccessful.

An IMF assessment (1996) suggested that money laundering was equal to 2-5% of global GDP. This range is often used to estimate the size of the money laundering problem in the UK. In 1999 HM Revenue and Customs used the IMF approach to estimate that money laundering in the UK was in the range of £19-48 billion. Applying the same methodology using the UK GDP figures contained in the UK National Accounts (Blue Book) published by the Office for National Statistics on 6 August 2009 gives an estimate somewhere between £29 billion and £72 billion.

While the concepts are simple, that is far from being the case so far as concerns the techniques employed by those who pursue these activities and the systems that have been put in place to counter such activities. This section provides an introduction to these important subjects. It explains the legal and regulatory framework established within the UK to combat these threats and it provides a description of the principal elements of the criminal law that are engaged.