Tim Bennett explains what money laundering is, and how you can avoid getting caught up in it.
Money laundering is a catch-all term for any activity that tries to convert the proceeds of crime into legitimate money. Crimes that generate money illegally include drug dealing, terrorism, tax evasion and fraud. Having committed a crime, a criminal will want to hide the proceeds and make them difficult for the authorities to trace back. That’s because criminal proceeds are usually subject to confiscation orders.
This can be done via “layering” transactions designed to conceal the origin of the ”hot” money. A classic target for this type of transaction would be eurobonds, which are not personally registered, making ownership harder to trace. Having done a number of layering transactions, the criminal will aim to integrate the sale proceeds from the last one back into the economy by spending the now “clean” money.
Since money laundering is connected with serious crime, the penalties are stiff – a maximum of 14 years in prison, coupled with an unlimited fine.
• Entry from MoneyWeek's Financial glossary.