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Money laundering, a modern risk to the socioeconomic order

Money laundering is "disguising assets for use without detection of the illegal activity that produced them"This is what the Office of Foreign Assets Control -OFAC- attached to the United States Department of the Treasury has called it, therefore it is necessary to identify the original crime, which currently is not necessarily linked to drug trafficking crimes, as it was originally established by the Vienna Convention in 1988, but to serious crimes -corruption, terrorism, currency counterfeiting, human trafficking, among others-, in order to establish the origin of the illicit funds obtained to start the laundering process, which due to the complexity of the operations are carried out by organized criminal groups that try to legally justify the acquisition and possession of illicitly obtained goods.

In order to achieve this, organized criminal structures generally employ the established economic apparatus to give a lawful appearance to their actions. Therefore, it involves the placement of funds in the financial system, the structuring of transactions to disguise the origin, ownership and true location of the funds and the integration of these funds into society in the form of assets with a legal appearance.

In one of the definitions detailed in the text La Legitimación de Capitales y sus Implicaciones Económicas (Money Laundering and its economic implications). An approach to the conceptualization of this crimeAccording to its author, Yosman Valderrama, this crime represents an economic crime that serves as a basis for the incorporation of money from criminal acts into the legal economy of a country, circumventing existing controls and guaranteeing the offender its use without being traced by the authorities. In this sense, in money laundering, the perpetrator is fully aware of the laws he is violating.

For its part, the Financial Action Task Force issued the following definition for this crime called money laundering, money laundering, money laundering or asset laundering: "....The conversion or transfer of property, knowing that it derives from a criminal offense, for the purpose of concealing or disguising its illegal provenance or assisting any person involved in the commission of the offense to evade the consequences of his actions". This multinational group was created in 1989 in Paris, France, with the intention of joining forces to curb the commission of these acts.

Special characteristics of money laundering

In his text, Valderrama explains some of the distinctive characteristics of this crime:

  1. Professionalization of the legitimizerThe execution of an action of this type requires the design of financial and economic structures that allow the channeling of the resources obtained. For this reason, they are usually carried out by professionals or people with technical knowledge developed in the areas of law, economics or related fields.
  2. Ideal profilesThe person who commits this type of crime must design very well elaborated strategies to simulate an ideal profile, that is to say, a legal one. For this reason, a profile is created in which a client is shown to the financial institutions as a client with the capacity to sustain the assets he owns, through various documents issued by companies or enterprises of dubious or fictitious origin.
  3. Prior offenseBefore laundering or legitimizing capital, a previous crime of stealing or hoarding assets or resources that are not one's own has been committed. This characteristic is fundamental to detect this type of crime.
  4. Subway activityThe following is an example: by evading the tracking of capital by the authorities and legal structures, the offender can make use of the resources obtained fraudulently, bringing negative consequences to the country's economy, since unfair competition is encouraged, taking into account that goods of dubious origin are mixed with a nation's licit resources.
  5. Globalized crimeThe company has no border limits and can extend its actions to several countries due to the globalization of today's financial system.

Stages of money laundering:

  1. PlacementThis is the first stage and requires entering the funds into the financial system without attracting the attention of the authorities or economic institutions, it is the phase in which the investigation groups can detect more easily, due to the implementation of compliance protocols.
  2. DiversificationThe mobilization of funds in the financial system, generally through a large number of banking transactions that generate confusion and whose objective is to distract the authorities, in which illicit funds begin to be disassociated, with mixtures in operations with licit capital.
  3. IntegrationThis is the final step once the funds have entered the financial system and have been hidden. In this part of the process, various transactions are usually carried out to make the resources appear legal, such as the purchase of real estate, works of art, so that the final beneficiaries can incorporate the money obtained from the original crimes into the normal commercial chain.

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