Here’s how money laundering is getting harder

Attention Crooks!

Real estate (U.S. and U.K.)

Purchasing real estate with cash is a tried and true money laundering technique used by the world’s kleptocratic elites.

Photo: The Lazy Artist Gallery

In the U.S, the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, known as FinCEN, is considering a rule that would require real estate cash transactions to be scrutinized in a similar way as those involving loans from financial institutions.

Meanwhile in the UK, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has prompted swift action from parliament. The legislative body introduced a new law to create a registry of foreign entities that own property within the UK. If passed, the measure would make foreign ownership of UK real estate more transparent, making it more difficult for criminals to hide their money in London’s fashionable boroughs.


Cryptocurrency has long had a reputation as the asset of choice for criminals because it allows for anonymous transactions.

Photo: David McBee

To show that the government is focused on enforcement, The U.S Department of Justice recently created the National Cryptocurrency Enforcement Team, an entity that will work to squash crypto money laundering.

Nordic banks

Once a popular destination for dirty money, as evidenced by the fact that several were revealed to have been part of a number of massive money laundering schemes involving their subsidiaries in the Baltics.

Photo: Micael Widell

Sweden piloted an anti-money laundering initiative in 2020 to facilitate information sharing between the biggest Nordic banks and the Swedish police.

Its participants are the institutions involved in the money laundering schemes, among them Danske Bank and Nordea Bank.

The pilot project has since become a regular collaboration, making the Nordic banking system a much more dangerous place for criminal cash.

Arts and antiques (U.S. and U.K.)

The high brow crooks that prefer to store their cash in Picassos and Da Vincis are also facing trouble.

Photo: Julia Volk

A recent U.S. government budget broadens the definition of ‘financial institution’ to include those engaged in the trade of art and antiquities.

This means that art and antiques dealers will be required to play a more active role in reporting suspicious activities to AML authorities and discerning true art lovers from crooks seeking to launder cash.

This was modeled after a similar law in the UK, passed a few months earlier.

Free trade zones (UAE)

The lax trade and tax regimes within free trade zones are meant to encourage economic activity, but this can also make them a magnet for dirty money.

Photo: Rafael de Campos

The UAE has ramped up prosecution of money-laundering cases, with 220 convictions between 2019 and 2021. Last year, its government announced the creation of a special court for money laundering crimes, as well as an executive office to deal with the issue.

The Emirates is also planning to include gold sourcing regulations into its AML law.

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