Almost all criminal activities yield profits, often cash, that criminals seek to launder through different means. These are carried out by transnational Organised Crime Groups regardless of their ethnic origin or geographical location, therefore defying categorisation. Money laundering activities are so diffuse for a relatively simple reason: Organised Crime is a commercial activity working for financial benefit.
Although not a new concept, the fact that criminals operate for profit is something that has not fully translated into the approach towards tackling Serious and Organised Crime. For a host of reasons, money laundering convictions and asset recovery efforts remain largely underdeveloped in the EU.
While the world is looking with concern at the possible misuse of virtual currencies by criminals, this report may seem somewhat unusual in that it is not highlighting a new phenomenon or an emerging risk: money laundering and cash have been the stock of criminals for decades. However, this is precisely what makes the findings of this report of interest: in spite of the changing face of criminality, with significant threats now stemming from new technologies, money laundering schemes detected by law enforcement are still largely characterised by traditional techniques, in particular the use of cash.
There are, of course, numerous other factors which present risks as regards money laundering (e.g. beneficial ownership of companies) many of these are receiving sufficient attention at international level, and are already being addressed through European legislation. The use of cash by criminals however, remains one of the biggest threats reported by Law Enforcement in the area of money laundering, as well as one of the most significant barriers to successful investigations and prosecution.
The findings of this report are reflected in a set of recommendations aimed at providing practical solutions which could assist in preventing the use of cash for criminal purposes as well as enabling investigators to achieve higher rates of successful convictions.
Director of Europol