Money laundering is a white-collar offense that entails transferring the proceeds of a criminal activity into apparent legitimate assets that can be declared through tax returns. This term apparently got its name from when the American mafia would channel the proceeds of their nefarious activities into laundromats in order to legalize it.
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Making the Money Clean
According to the law, money that has been earned through criminal activities such as drug trafficking, extortion, illegal gambling, prostitution or tax evasion etc. is called ‘dirty money’. For financial institutions like banks to agree to deal with these large sums of money, it needs to be made clean so that it doesn’t link back to the criminal activities due to which it was earned.
The criminal act of money laundering occurs in every country in different magnitudes. It is also true that different countries have their own set of laws where money laundering is considered. There are three main aspects to money laundering – placement, layering, and integration.
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At the placement stage, the money is invested into a legitimate financial institution by the money launderer in the form of cash deposits. Of all the aspects of money laundering, this is probably the riskiest because any financial institution worth their salt are bound to be suspicious of large sums of money coming in.
Diffusing the Money
In the layering stage, the money is sent through different financial transactions to be changed and for it to become hard to trace. This is done through wire transfers, bank-to-bank transfers changing the money’s currency, and so on. White Collar Crimes usually carry a paper trail linking back to the offender.
The Money Returns
The final stage of money laundering is integration wherein the ‘clean money’ is reintroduced into the economy in a legitimate manner. If the earlier two stages are hurdle-free, it is almost impossible to catch a money launderer once he reaches the integration stage. If there is no documentation during the previous stages, a money launderer faces little chance of prosecution.