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What is money laundering?
"Money laundering" is not a legal term in international law but is used to loosely describe the "turning of dirty money into clean money". The act by which illicit funds are made to appear legitimate (which the term refers to) is defined in key international instruments, most notably the UN Convention Against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances and the UN Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime. The latter defines money laundering as:
The conversion or transfer of property, knowing that such property is the proceeds of crime, for the purpose of concealing or disguising the illicit origin of the property or of helping any person who is involved in the commission of the predicate offence to evade the legal consequences of his or her action; or the concealment or disguise of the true nature, source, location, disposition, movement or ownership of or rights with respect to property, knowing that such property is the proceeds of crime. (Article 6, UN Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime).
The act of conversion and concealment is crucial to the laundering process. But it is important to note that "laundered funds" never become legitimate. They only ever have the appearance of legitimacy, not the reality, even though the so-called money trail may be complicated and obscure the original criminal source of the funds. This is important because in jurisdictions where there is a criminal asset confiscation scheme (proceeds of crime legislation), legitimate looking laundered funds may still be forfeited to the State as criminal proceeds.
National strategies to combat money laundering must take into account the global nature of the problem and therefore include not only effective criminal laws prohibiting money laundering and persuasive penalties for those convicted, but also efficient and effective confiscation or forfeiture mechanisms as well as effective laws to permit international cooperation around information sharing, extradition and mutual legal assistance.
Is money laundering a major problem?
Although estimating the amount of worldwide money laundering is problematic, the International Monetary Fund has estimated that between 2% and 5% of global GDP per year is generated annually as the proceeds of crime (in US funds that is an amount in the trillions of dollars), the largest sources of which are illicit drug manufacturing and trafficking, arms and people smuggling, corruption, fraud, extortion, kidnapping and theft. Once those funds are dealt with in accordance with the definition below (whether entered into the financial system or concealed, disguised or otherwise transferred etc) they are by definition laundered funds.
Money laundering globally now presents not only a problem for criminal justice systems but also a macro-economic problem because (given the sheer volume of monies involved) it has the capacity to destabilise financial institutions and financial systems. Many jurisdictions and regions in the Asia-Pacific involve central banks, Finance and Justice Departments and law enforcement agencies in their national strategies to combat money laundering.
What is terrorist financing?
The FATF Recommendations - International Standards on Combating Money Laundering and the Financing of Terrorism & Proliferation (2012) provides the following definitions:
Terrorist The term terrorist refers to any natural person who: (i) commits, or attempts to commit, terrorist acts by any means, directly or indirectly, unlawfully and wilfully; (ii) participates as an accomplice in terrorist acts ; (iii) organises or directs others to commit terrorist acts ; or (iv) contributes to the commission of terrorist acts by a group of persons acting with a common purpose where the contribution is made intentionally and with the aim of furthering the terrorist act or with the knowledge of the intention of the group to commit a terrorist act.
Terrorist act A terrorist act includes:
(a) an act which constitutes an offence within the scope of, and as defined in one of the following treaties: (i) Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Seizure of Aircraft (1970); (ii) Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts against the Safety of Civil Aviation (1971); (iii) Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Crimes against Internationally Protected Persons, including Diplomatic Agents (1973); (iv) International Convention against the Taking of Hostages (1979); (v) Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material (1980); (vi) Protocol for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts of Violence at Airports Serving International Civil Aviation, supplementary to the Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts against the Safety of Civil Aviation (1988); (vii) Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts against the Safety of Maritime Navigation (2005); (viii) Protocol for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts against the Safety of Fixed Platforms located on the Continental Shelf (2005); (ix) International Convention for the Suppression of Terrorist Bombings (1997); and (x) International Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism (1999).
(b) any other act intended to cause death or serious bodily injury to a civilian, or to any other person not taking an active part in the hostilities in a situation of armed conflict, when the purpose of such act, by its nature or context, is to intimidate a population, or to compel a Government or an international organisation to do or to abstain from doing any act.
Terrorist financing Terrorist financing is the financing of terrorist acts, and of terrorists and terrorist organisations.
Terrorist financing offence References (except in Recommendation 4) to a terrorist financing offence refer not only to the primary offence or offences, but also to ancillary offences.
Terrorist organisation The term terrorist organisation refers to any group of terrorists that: (i) commits, or attempts to commit, terrorist acts by any means, directly or indirectly, unlawfully and wilfully; (ii) participates as an accomplice in terrorist acts; (iii) organises or directs others to commit terrorist acts; or (iv) contributes to the commission of terrorist acts by a group of persons acting with a common purpose where the contribution is made intentionally and with the aim of furthering the terrorist act or with the knowledge of the intention of the group to commit a terrorist act.
What does the term “Typologies” mean?
Typologies work is the study of methods, techniques and trends of money laundering and terrorist financing. The APG undertakes detailed and relevant typologies research to better understand the money laundering and terrorist financing environment in the Asia/Pacific region. Findings provide decision makers and operational experts with up-to-date empirical information in order that they may target policies and strategies to combat these threats.
How do I report a suspected case of money laundering or terrorist financing?
The APG is not an investigative body and is therefore unable to take any action on these matters.
You should raise suspected cases of money laundering or terrorist financing with the law enforcement authorities in your country.