Chapter 3: Ways of Quantifying Money Laundering
3.1. MEASURING THE IMMEASURABLE Money laundering is a largely secretive phenomenon. The exact number of launderers that operate every year, how much money they launder in which countries and sectors, and which money laundering techniques they use is not known. Apart from recent spectacular media coverage, such as an US$80 million fine levied against ABN AMRO by US regulators, the involvement of the Austrian BAWAG bank in money laundering through the Caribbean, or the charges against Jean-Cyril Spinetta, the president of Air France–KLM, for money laundering and fraud in connection with the bankrupt company Pretory (see Financieel Dagblad 13th July 2006, p. 2), money laundering remains largely in the dark. It only comes to light when it is detected. Are these spectacular events the entire story or are they just the tip of the iceberg? Are they random samples of a small or large underlying population? Does the media overreact to scandals and overestimate money laundering as some criminologists believe (see for example, van Duyne 2006) or is the problem larger than one could possibly imagine, amounting to several trillion US dollars per year (Walker 1999[a])? In order to examine the money-laundering problem, one has to measure it according to country as well as globally. But estimating money laundering means measuring the immeasurable. Nevertheless, courageous attempts have been made to at least estimate the ranges and magnitudes of money laundering. Calculating the amount of money laundering will introduce problems similar to measuring the shadow economy, the amount...
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