Impacts of Money Laundering on Development

Blog / Impacts of Money Laundering on Development

As it is known, money laundering is the crime of obtaining money obtained illegally. Corrupt anti-money laundering regimes in countries allow criminals and terrorist financiers to use their financial gains to expand their criminal pursuits and encourage illegal activities such as corruption and drug trafficking. Although money laundering and terrorist financing can occur in any country, it has particularly significant economic and social consequences for developing countries.

Also, money laundering has significant economic and social consequences for countries with fragile financial systems because they are also susceptible to disruptions from such impacts. On the other hand, a practical framework for anti-money laundering (AML) and combating the financing of terrorism (CFT) has significant benefits for a country both locally and internationally.

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The Economic Cost of Money Laundering

The act of money laundering poses a threat to financial institutions that play a crucial role in economic growth. It fuels criminal activities and corruption, which in turn, hinders productivity and slows down economic growth. This problem is pervasive in major financial markets as well as emerging markets. As developing economies and financial sectors emerge, they become more vulnerable to money laundering activities. The adverse impacts of money laundering are far-reaching and can cause unpredictable changes in money demand, exchange rates, and international capital flows. Its economic impact can be seen in various aspects, such as growth rates, income distribution, tax revenues, and financial institutions.

The Social Cost of Money Laundering

Money laundering has not only economic costs but also significant social risks. Criminals, such as drug traffickers, use money laundering to expand their operations, creating a burden on the government due to increased law enforcement and healthcare spending to combat the serious consequences. Money laundering briefly shifts economic power from the government, citizens, and the market to criminals, which has a degenerative impact on society. In some cases, money laundering can lead to a virtual takeover of a legitimate government. Therefore, reducing the ability of criminals to launder their income and conduct criminal activities requires global standards and international cooperation. However, governments must also be mindful of the negative impact of increased AML regulations and law enforcement on public spending. Ultimately, the normal citizen could be adversely affected.

The Adverse Money Laundering Implications for Developing Countries

Money laundering and terrorism financing can occur in any country, but their impact may vary from one nation to another. Developing countries, with their relatively small markets and vulnerability to criminal or terrorist influences, suffer significant economic and social consequences from money laundering. However, even countries with fragile financial systems are not immune to the damaging impacts of illegal finance. In essence, the economy, society, and security of any country that becomes a hub for money laundering or terrorism financing are at risk. In the following article, we will focus on the impact of money laundering on developed countries.

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International Consequences and Foreign Investment

If a developing country has a reputation as a hub for money laundering or terrorist financing, it could face negative consequences for its growth and development. Foreign financial institutions may limit their transactions with institutions in these locations, leading to reduced investments and increased transaction costs. Legitimate businesses in these areas may also suffer from decreased access to global markets and higher expenses due to increased scrutiny of their ownership and control systems. Consequently, countries with inadequate AML/CFT enforcement are less likely to receive foreign private investment and may face severe restrictions on eligibility for foreign state aid, particularly in developing countries.

Increased Crime and Corruption

When a country is seen as a place where money laundering is prevalent, it becomes a magnet for criminals and corruption. There are several factors that contribute to the rise in crime and corruption, such as a weak AML/CFT system, insufficient or selective enforcement of AML/CFT laws, inadequate penalties, including asset seizure, and a limited number of precursor offenses for money laundering. If money laundering is widespread, there is a higher likelihood of corruption and other crimes occurring. Criminals often bribe key institutions within the country to facilitate their money laundering schemes. These institutions can include financial institutions, lawyers, accountants, legislatures, supervisory authorities, police officials, prosecutors, and courts. However, implementing timely and impactful practices in the country can greatly reduce the profitability of criminal activity and deter future crimes.

Private Sector

Criminals involved in money laundering often employ the use of shell companies. These companies appear legitimate but are actually controlled by criminals and are used to mix illegal funds with legal ones in order to conceal ill-gotten gains. The ultimate goal of these shell companies, also known as front companies, is not only to generate profits but also to safeguard the illegal funds. By investing in legitimate companies and using shell companies, money launderers can gain control over various sectors and industries within a country's economy, which can lead to instability and improper allocation of resources due to artificial distortions in asset prices. Furthermore, this method of money laundering enables individuals to evade taxes, thereby depriving the country of much-needed revenue.

Weakened Financial Institutions

Money laundering poses a threat to the stability of a country's financial sector, particularly to banks. The resulting risks, which include reputational, operational, legal, and concentration risks, are interconnected and come at a cost. The reputational risk, for instance, may result in a loss of trust in the bank's integrity due to negative publicity about its business practices and affiliations. This may lead customers, borrowers, depositors, and investors to avoid doing business with the institution, especially if there are suspicions or allegations of money laundering or terrorist financing. Thus, money laundering can have a myriad of detrimental impacts on financial institutions.

Privatization Efforts

The threat of money launderers to national economies is a serious concern, particularly through the process of privatization. Illicit organizations may outbid legitimate buyers of former state-owned enterprises, using illegally obtained funds to create more opportunities for criminal activity and corruption. This undermines the country's potential for legal, market-based, tax-paying enterprises.

Benefits of a Powerful AML / CFT Framework

There are certain measures that can be taken to improve the situation and mitigate the negative impacts. One of the most important steps is to implement efficient AML/CTF programs. A well-executed AML/CTF program is vital for strengthening deterrence against criminal activities, protecting organizations from money laundering, and minimizing potential risks. With that in mind, let's explore three key aspects that can help improve the potency of AML/CTF programs.

7 Elements of an Effective AML/CFT Compliance Programme

1) Enhancing The Stability of Financial Institutions

Financial risks associated with money laundering are substantial, but there are reliable banking practices that minimize these risks. These risks include the possibility of individuals or institutions falling prey to fraud, inadequate internal controls, or violations of laws and regulations due to criminal activities. "Know Your Customer" (KYC) guidelines and due diligence procedures are vital components of a robust AML/CFT system that ensures the secure and healthy functioning of institutions exposed to money laundering.

These policies and procedures serve as practical risk management tools while simultaneously reducing the potential for fraudulent activities within the organization. Proper customer identification procedures and identifying beneficial owners provide extra scrutiny for high-risk accounts and monitor suspicious activities. These responsible internal controls are in line with the safe and dependable operation of a financial institution. 

2) Encouraging Economic Development

The act of money laundering can have a harmful impact on economic growth. Funds acquired through illegal means are often used differently than legal funds, being placed in "sterile" investments that preserve their value and ease of transfer, rather than being invested in productive channels. These investments may include luxury goods like art, real estate, jewelry, antiques, or high-end vehicles, which do not contribute to the creation of new products or services for the economy.

In some cases, criminal organizations may even use productive businesses as a front for illegal revenue laundering, prioritizing this over profit-making endeavors. This practice ultimately reduces the overall productivity of a country's resources. However, implementing strong AML/CFT measures can serve as a deterrent to such criminal activity, allowing investments to be directed toward productive goals that meet consumer needs and drive the economy forward.

3) Fighting Crime and Corruption

To combat crime and corruption, a strong institutional framework for anti-money laundering and countering the financing of terrorism is essential. By including money laundering as a criminal offense, it becomes more challenging for criminals to benefit from their illegal activities. Additionally, if bribery is included as a premise offense and rigorously enforced, it reduces the opportunities for offenders to corrupt public officials. The strength of an AML regime itself acts as a deterrent against criminal activity, and seizing and confiscating money laundering proceeds is vital to its success. By completely removing the profits of money laundering, the incentive for criminal activities decreases. Therefore, the broader the scope of antecedent crimes related to money laundering, the greater the potential benefit.

A Robust AML / CFT Framework with Sanction Scanner

Successful AML programs rely on a risk-based approach. Our AML Screening Service helps organizations accurately assess customer risk levels when opening new accounts. With Sanction Scanner solutions, organizations can create a comprehensive AML control program that identifies customer risks through global enforcement, PEP, and Adverse media data. Regulators like FATF and the European Union recognize that UBOs pose ML/TF risks, so it's vital to have information and obligations regarding them. Through UBO control, organizations can manage the opposite party company's managers in their business partnerships using Sanction Scanner. 

Customer Due Diligence (CDD) and Know Your Customer (KYC) are critical components of successful AML/CFT programs. To mitigate financial crime risks, AML-liable organizations must verify their customers. AML Name Screening tool facilitates CDD and KYC transactions to meet these obligations. Additionally, the Sanction Scanner Transaction Monitoring tool provides end-to-end features that help companies of all sizes fulfill their obligations to counter money laundering and financing terrorism. Request a demo for more information and try our solutions in action.

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