Edited by Brigitte Unger and Daan van der Linde
Chapter 3: The effects of money laundering
Money laundering is defined as the processing of criminal proceeds to disguise their illegal origin (FATF 1996, p. 1). As disguising is the main goal of this criminal act, a successful money laundering scheme goes completely unnoticed. Not only should the process itself go unnoticed, also afterwards nothing should be visible. Most crimes eventually have a clear effect: A dead body (murder), a missing item (theft) or a counterfeit product, yet money laundering should leave no trace at all. On top of that most crimes have a clear victim, whereas in the case of money laundering it is unclear who the actual victim is. These two aspects combine to make money laundering an invisible crime. One could wonder why we are fighting something which is basically invisible and without a clear victim. John Stuart Mill concluded as for back as 1859 that governments should not forcibly prevent people from engaging in victimless crimes, because it does no harm to others (Mill 1859). In order to justify anti-money laundering policies, we have to identify who is harmed by money laundering and to what extent.
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