What is money laundering?

Money laundering is the term commonly used to refer to the process by which criminals try to disguise the origin of the proceeds of their crimes, i.e. criminal property. Their aim in this process is to transform criminal property so that it appears to be legitimate property without arousing suspicion. Thus ‘laundering’ as the dictionary definition states is the process of ‘cleaning’ ‘dirty’ money.

The money laundering process typically has 3 distinct stages:

  • The placement stage: Criminal property is placed into the financial system. This stage often involves the deposit of substantial cash sums across the counters of banks and other financial institutions.
  • The layering stage: The deposited cash is dispersed through a variety of different means in an attempt to conceal the criminal property.
  • The integration stage: The above two stages have been successful and the cycle is completed, with the criminal property returned to the financial system as legitimate property.