Money laundering

Money laundering can undermine the integrity and stability of financial markets and institutions. It is a global problem.

The scale of the problem

The best available international estimate of the amount of money laundering is equivalent to some 2.7% of global GDP or US$1.6 trillion in 2009. The NCA assesses that many hundreds of billions of pounds of international criminal money is laundered through UK banks, including their subsidiaries, each year.

The scale of the laundering of criminal proceeds is a therefore strategic threat to the UK’s economy and reputation. The proceeds of virtually all serious and organised crime in the UK as well as the proceeds of a significant amount of international serious and organised crime (including corrupt Politically Exposed Persons seeking to launder the proceeds of their corruption and hide stolen assets in the UK) is believed to be laundered into and through the UK.

Methods of money laundering

For more information about money laundering threats please see the UK’s first money laundering and terrorist financing national risk assessment.

Criminals use a wide variety of methods to launder money. These methods fall into two key categories;

  • Cash-based money laundering - which can involve the physical movement of currency over national borders, as well as the use of companies with high cash throughput as a cover, with payments being broken down into smaller amounts to avoid detection
  • High-End money laundering – which is specialist, usually involves transactions of substantial value, and involves the abuse of the financial sector and so-called ‘professional enablers’

The NCA and partner agencies has a proven track record of tackling cash-based laundering, and a good track record of recovering the assets of organised crime.

Targeting 'high end' money laundering

The NCA is increasingly focusing its efforts on targeting “high end” money laundering which is particularly relevant in major frauds and overseas corruption work, where the raw material of the crime is electronic and cash is only used further down the laundering process to disguise audit trails or extract profits.

The ability of criminals to launder large sums of money themselves without attracting attention is limited. Therefore, criminals need someone professional, capable and trustworthy to make the necessary arrangements. Although there are many ways to launder money, it is often the ‘professional enabler’ who holds the key to the kind of complex processes that can provide the necessary anonymity for the criminal. Whilst our assessment is that the vast majority of professionals working in these fields have a high standard of integrity, lawyers, trust and company formation agents, investment bankers and accountants are among those at greatest risk of becoming involved, either wittingly or unwittingly in high end money laundering.

For further information please read our pdf ‘High End Money Laundering’ strategy (131 KB).

Joint Money Laundering Intelligence Taskforce (JMLIT)

As part of its approach to tackling high end money laundering, the NCA is prioritising work to co-operate with the private sector and relevant professional/regulatory bodies in this area. To this end, in February 2015 the Joint Money Laundering Intelligence Taskforce (JMLIT)was established as an NCA initiative created in partnership with the financial sector to tackle high end money laundering. It has been developed with partners in Government, the British Bankers Association, law enforcement and over 20 major UK and international banks.

Further information

The Economic Crime Command leads the NCA's fight against money laundering. Find out more about the Economic Crime Command.

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