Coming out in the wash: the US government has published research on the global anti-money-laundering campaign in 2008. It shows that there's a long way to go, according to Martin Nimmo, who reveals some of the highlights.

AuthorNimmo, Martin
PositionOpinion

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A recent report from the US Department of State Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs has drawn on intelligence worldwide to summarise how the fight against money-laundering is going. It is not all good news.

As might be expected, countries such as Afghanistan, with its large-scale exportation of opium, and Colombia, a major source of cocaine, feature heavily in the document. But the US, the UK and other EU member states also crop up, as these economies have been targeted increasingly by money-launderers connected with narcotics, terrorism or fraud.

The report suggests that many countries that boast solid anti-money-laundering (AML) and counter-terrorist finance (CTF) standards and infrastructures have been failing to enforce their laws. This is often because of a shortage of resources, but in some cases a key failing is the lack of political will. There have been increases in the number of AMW CTF legal frameworks, regulations and financial intelligence units (FIUs). But there have been few corresponding increases in prosecutions and convictions--the true measures of success. In Russia alone, it's estimated that as much as 245bn [pounds sterling] may have been laundered in 2008, according to its FIU.

Having said that, many encouraging developments are listed in the report. For example, by December 2008, 180 countries had criminalised money-laundering to include crimes other than trading in illegal narcotics-an increase of 17 countries on 2004. And 13 countries criminalised terrorist financing last year, bringing the total to 149 countries--an increase of 36 since 2003.

The report reveals many other key findings in 2008, including the following:

* Ghana enacted its first anti-money-laundering legislation.

* The Egmont Group, an international committee of FIUs of which the UK's Serious Organised Crime Agency is a member, expelled Bolivia's FIU because of the Bolivian government's refusal to criminalise the financing of terrorism.

* With about 600 anti-money-laundering convictions annually, Italy ranked second only to the US in successful prosecutions.

* The Serbian government adopted a new "national strategy against money-laundering and terrorism financing".

* The Ivory Coast's FIU became operational.

* Hungary's FIU seized over 4m [pounds sterling] and froze 6.3m [pounds sterling] in illicit proceeds.

* The Mexican government launched "operation clean house", aimed at ending corruption in its...

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