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date: 31 May 2020

Abstract and Keywords

Money laundering (ML), the effort to conceal the origins of the proceeds of crime, is an old activity but a recently created criminal offense, beginning in the United States and the United Kingdom in the 1980s and rapidly spreading through the West in the 1990s and the world thereafter. The global regime of controls that has emerged since 1990 represents a new attempt to obligate financial institutions and professionals to check on the origins and uses of funds that they handle in order to deter crime and catch criminals. This essay describes the varieties of money laundering activities and policy responses connected to “organized crime.” Though some high-earning criminals do require the services of money launderers, much criminal proceeds are not laundered but simply used for the “normal” lifestyle expenditures of offenders, which may be very high compared with the disciplined acquisitive habits of the conventional middle classes but perhaps no higher than that of financial services traders spending their large bonuses. The markets for ML services appear quite segmented and highly variable within and between countries, making it more difficult to assess how well the markets or the controls work. We know only a modest amount about the shape of money laundering, but, though we presume that controls have some effect upon it, there is little reason to believe that it has done much more than inconvenience some offenders, make it easier to track and recover some proceeds of crime (including Grand Corruption), and allow prosecutors to get longer sentences in some cases.

Keywords: money laundering, drugs trafficking, fraud, proceeds of crime, globalization

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