Though illegal, money laundering is a big business. According to the Federal Bureau of Investigations, an estimated 2% of the United States’ economy in 2010 consisted of proceeds from crime. Money laundering involves moving these assets around and hiding their origins for later access. It is of particular interest for the FBI and other law enforcement agencies in the U.S. to combat money laundering because other forms of criminal activity cannot continue without access to usable profits.

The goal of money laundering is to obscure that the initial source of the income was criminal activity. A complex series of financial transactions makes the origin of the funds harder for authorities to track down.

What do prosecutors have to prove in a money laundering case?

According to Cornell Law School, concealment of the money is not enough to prove an allegation of money laundering. Prosecutors must show that the purpose of concealing the money was to obscure where the money came from, who has ownership of it and/or who controls it. If the concealment of the money took place for some other reason, a money laundering charge is not valid.

What federal laws apply to money laundering?

Money laundering became a federal crime with more serious consequences in 1986 because of the Money Laundering Control Act. Before that, there was the Bank Secrecy Act of 1970. This law required banks to report financial transactions involving amounts of more than $10,000. The USA Patriot Act passed in 2001 to combat terrorist activities. It broadened the terms of the Bank Secrecy Act to include more financial institutions and expanded the scope of their responsibilities to report questionable transactions.