Money laundering is any illegal activity related to moving illegally acquired money through financial systems so that the funds appear to be legally acquired. Money laundering can include any act designed to conceal the nature, location, source, control, or ownership of money so as to hide the fact that it was acquired illegally, to avoid legal reporting requirements, or some other deceitful objective. Money laundering can often be related to other serious criminal offenses including: drug trafficking, terrorism, white collar crime, organized crime, tax evasion, and public corruption.
The laws regarding the crime of money laundering are numerous, complex, and extremely stringent. The major federal statutes related to money laundering are the Bank Secrecy Act, including the US Patriot Act, and the Money Laundering Control Act of 1986. These laws extend a broad and comprehensive reach over domestic and international, formal and informal anti-money laundering efforts. Particularly following the terrorist activities of September 11, 2001, the federal government has made the fight against money laundering and terrorist financing a top priority on the US domestic and international political, legal, financial, and diplomatic agenda.
Most anti- money laundering statutes include sections which: make money laundering a crime, require numerous institutions to comply with anti-money laundering programs, establish regulatory and reporting standards, methods of information exchange, and penalties for non-compliance with these requirements. The United States Treasury Department issues the National Money Laundering Strategy every year to outline the specific federal strategy to attack money laundering and terrorist financing on all fronts. This involves a high level of coordination and cooperation with domestic and foreign jurisdictions, financial institutions, government agencies, and more.
Money laundering schemes can range from the simple to the incredibly complex. The money laundering process will typically occur in three phases: placement, layering, and integration. Placement is the process of getting criminal money into financial institutions. Layering is the process of moving money through financial systems to evade detection. Integration is the process by which criminal money is absorbed into the economy and legitimized.
To investigate money laundering involves a comprehensive effort on behalf of numerous parties. US money laundering investigations and prosecutions can legitimately extend beyond our borders in many cases. Financial investigations aimed at detecting and following the flow of money is central to anti-money laundering efforts.
If charged with a money laundering offense, an individual or institution may face up to twenty years of incarceration, up to $500,000 in punitive fines, probation, civil litigation, and much more. Civil money laundering lawsuits can be filed against an individual or financial institution. The laws regarding money laundering are as complex at the crime itself. If you would like to learn more about money laundering, please contact us to learn more about your legal rights and options in a money laundering criminal or civil case.
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