Money laundering has emerged as an extremely complex legal and investigative challenge for the law enforcement agencies across the globe in recent times. Given the emergence of organized crime syndicates and terrorist outfits, the need to tackle the proceeds and funding routes of such activities has never been as pronounced as it is today. The processes involved in laundering of ill gotten proceeds appear to be innocuous, however the culmination of these processes creates a web of transactions, which assist in putting a veil on the illicit activities that have generated these revenues and the illicit activities that receive financial support through such mechanisms.
Perhaps the major obstacle in conducting any money laundering activity successfully is the existence of financial havens and banking secrecy norms, which shield such activities from any investigative and evidentiary risks. The issue is further amplified by the fact that with the advent of Internet, a number of virtual banks have sprung up creating a regulatory and jurisdictional nightmare for any enforcement authority. A glaring example of the complexity of this issue is evidenced by operation of the European Union Bank. The European Union Bank was founded by two Russians with the objective of harbouring the illicit proceeds of the Russian organized crime syndicate. The bank operated in the virtual space and claimed to offer its clients the strictest standards in banking secrecy and financial rewards related to offshore banking. The nefariousness of its operation was revealed by the fact that it operated under a license from the Government of Antigua but had its computer server in Washington DC and the person operating both the server and the bank was in Canada. Moreover Antiguan Law did not criminalize the theft of bank’s asset. Thus, as observed by Michael Levi et al., questions relating to; where was the crime committed? Who committed the crime? Who is going to investigate it and whether the accused can be arrested? –Fall within the grey area of law and policy and prima facie appear to be non-navigable. Nevertheless, investigative agencies with the support of the legal and regulatory ecosystem have had some measure of success in recovering and seizing such assets. It is believed that law enforcement initiatives are able to recover $ 100-500 million in a good year. However, when this is juxtaposed with the money laundered by the international drug trafficking syndicate, which is to the tune of a staggering minimum of $ 200 billion a year, it reflects the depth of the gaping hole in our international legal and regulatory framework. It may be readily argued that our investigative intelligence may not be sufficient in addressing the issue and that there is aburgeoning need for greater synergy between varied disciplines such as data science, law, criminology and finance.
Oval Observer Foundation is delighted to convene a Dialogue on Best Practices Against Money Laundering. The Dialogue will serve as a platform for money laundering experts from the finance, legal and law enforcement sectors to share ideas and stories with the objective of evaluating howinvestigations and asset recovery mechanisms can be consolidated to tackle the scourge of money laundering and assist in recovering proceeds of illicit/corrupt activities.
Key Topics of the Dialogue will include:
- Money Laundering & Financing of Terrorism
- International legal and regulatory response to combat money laundering/proceeds of corruption
- Bank secrecy norms & investigative obstacles
- Can Big Data help in tracking proceeds of illicit activities?
- Ethical banking practices, which may prevent laundering of ill-gotten money.