The Money Laundry: Regulating Criminal Finance in the Global Economy

The G-7 summit of 1989 established a global system of rules and regulations to prevent money laundering. Sadly, there is no compelling evidence that more than two decades of multilateral cooperation have stymied money laundering or reduced the prevalence of the other crimes it supports, such as drug trafficking and terrorism financing. Sharman boldly tested the international anti-money-laundering rules by breaking them, setting up shell companies and bank accounts without providing the kinds of documentation required by law. This proved easier to do in the United States and other rich countries than in well-known offshore financial havens, such as the Cayman Islands and Panama. But if the rules are so demonstrably ineffective, why have so many countries implemented them, often at considerable expense? Sharman’s answer is that countries fear that if they fail to do so, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s Financial Action Task Force will effectively blacklist them, making it difficult for them to conduct transactions with the world’s leading banks. The evidence suggests that the U.S. federal government ought to apply a similar form of soft coercion to some U.S. states, such as Nevada and Wyoming, where it is all too easy to break the international rules and get away with it.

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