Research Handbook on Money Laundering
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Research Handbook on Money Laundering

Edited by Brigitte Unger and Daan van der Linde

Although the practice of disguising the illicit origins of money dates back thousands of years, the concept of money laundering as a multidisciplinary topic with social, economic, political and regulatory implications has only gained prominence since the 1980s. This groundbreaking volume offers original, state-of-the-art research on the current money laundering debate and provides insightful predictions and recommendations for future developments in the field.
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Chapter 18: Are estimates of the volume of money laundering either feasible or useful?

Peter Reuter


In 1998 Michel Camdessus, Managing Director of the IMF, stated that money laundering might amount to about 2–5 percent of global GDP. He was not in fact announcing an IMF study but explicitly stating what he thought was expert opinion. The number lives on, because people do want to have some number and nothing else seemingly as authoritative has appeared since. My view is that knowing how much money is laundered serves no important policy purpose. It is simply one of those adornments for conversations about the phenomenon. That is very fortunate, since we have no methodology that plausibly would produce credible numbers. In these comments I use John Walker’s model for estimating money laundering in Australia, to illustrate the frailties (Walker 2007; Walker and Unger 2009).What I hope to persuade you of is that there is no prospect, either in surveys of experts or in studies of crimes themselves as reflected in criminal justice statistics, for developing persuasive estimates.

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