While the legislative session in Lansing and Washington, D.C. begin, headlines have been teeming with information about budget battles, votes on controversial issues and, of course, a government shutdown. In the midst of these legislative headlines, money laundering statutes and enforcement policies appear to be hidden.
Indeed, anti-money laundering regulations (AML) may only inspire visions of gangster movies, but as the scope of the definition of a “financial institution” grows, so does the number of institutions that must follow specific (and sometimes cryptic) guidelines.
For the uninitiated, money laundering is defined as the process of transferring the proceeds from illegal activity (i.e. dirty money) into legitimate businesses. It typically involves a three-step process, including careful introduction into the financial system, several moves to create confusion about the origin of the funds and further integration into the financially system until the money appears “clean.”
This does not mean that a person entering a bank with a suitcase full of $100 bills to deposit is not a suspected criminal. Rather AML regulations impose a duty upon the bank to properly document the transaction. After all, depositing money in an unusual fashion is not a crime at all. However, law enforcement agencies want a means to trace the proceeds from a crime to the crime itself, hence AML regulations.
While money laundering is a complicated process with a number of moving parts, proving a crime is equally complicated. This can lead to legitimate businesspeople being wrongfully ensnared in investigations. A skilled white collar crimes attorney can protect the rights of those accused.