Pull the plug on money laundering

Estimates of the amount of money spent on illegal drugs globally are estimated to be over $400 billion a year. Since many drug transactions deal in cash, traffickers need to “launder” it, that is, to shift it in smaller amounts from one financial institution to another, in order to hide its actual origin. Even legitimate banks can be used as “laundries.” Transferring the money to other venues—often offshore—makes it harder to track. 

Eventually, after numerous transfers and transactions, the money may be sent back to a bank in the United States, where the traffickers can access it to continue their business. Tracing the money in order to apprehend traffickers is a complex job that can require years of undercover work and great patience. One federal agent spoke of working undercover for at least four years to reveal crimes in a major bank and a multinational commodities trading company (Robert Mazur, “Follow the Dirty Money,” The New York Times, September 12, 2010).

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