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Socio-economic impact of money laundering

Socio-economic impact of money laundering

Money laundering is a crime that involves occupying money through illegal means. Corrupt anti-money laundering regimes in various countries allow terrorists and money launderers to use their financial gains in order to expand their criminal pursuits and expand their unlawful purposes and encourage many illegal activities like corruption and drug trafficking.

Although terrorist financing and money laundering can occur in any part of the world, it has particularly many social and economic consequences for developing countries. The developing countries are more susceptible to disruptions from the effects of money laundering, having significant social and economic implications due to fragile financial systems. This article talks briefly about the socio-economic impact of money laundering.

Social impact of money laundering

The economy obviously faces some dramatic repercussions when it comes to money laundering. But even society bears the repercussions of money laundering activities. Generally, money laundering allows criminals or launderers to expand their operations deliberately.

This exponentially increases the cost that the government has to bear due to enhanced law enforcement and the need to invest in the healthcare sector and public welfare in order to combat the negative consequences.

Money laundering transfers the economic power from the citizens, government, and the entire market to money launderers or criminals.

Social Impact of Money Laundering

Money laundering can cause a virtual takeover of the political party in power. Overall, money laundering activities arise pretty dynamic and complex challenges to the world community.

As a preventive measure, the government reduces the overall public spending in order to expand the spending on AML regulations, resulting in the ordinary citizens getting affected dramatically.

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Economic impact of money laundering

Money laundering activities dramatically affect the Financial Institutions (FIs) and Designated Non-Financial Businesses and Professions (DNFBPs), critical for economic growth. Activities related to money laundering promote corruption and crime that slow down the overall development of the economy and intensely reduce productivity in the nation-development sectors such as real estate and infrastructure.

Money laundering is a persistent problem in the world’s major financial markets as well as emerging markets. As the emerging markets are in the development phase, it becomes easy for launderers to disguise and target such developing markets to expand their spread.

Macroeconomic consequences of Money Laundering

  • Weaker banks and financial institutions
  • Increased crime and corruption
  • Discourages foreign investments in the country
  • Economic instability leading to distortion of major markets
  • Wide-spread tax evasion and loss of tax revenue
  • Reputational risks for the country
  • International sanctions
  • Undue advantage to money-launderers
  • Depreciation in the value of the official currency of the country
Economic Impact of Money Laundering
Furthermore, due to the unpredictable flow of money in the economy without a traceable source, the money demand too changes. This results in dramatic fluctuations in international capital flows and the overall exchange rates. The adverse results of money laundering activities on the economy affect various economic concepts like growth rates, money demand, tax revenues, income distribution, and financial institutions.

What are the various adverse implications of money laundering for the developing countries

Financing of terrorism and money laundering can happen anywhere, irrespective of the country. However, the value of damage or destruction it causes will definitely differ from one country to another, depending on the financial and social stability of the country. For developing countries, money laundering activities can have a severe social and economic impact because the markets of these countries are relatively small and more prone to disruption from activities such as terrorism and other criminal activities.

In addition to that, money laundering and terrorist financing also have a tremendous adverse impact on countries with fragile financial systems, as weaker social status, economic condition, and security measures aid the mala fide intentions of the criminals for terrorist financing or for money laundering activities.

The extent of the effect that money laundering has on each of the aspects of society and economy varies, as discussed hereunder:

1- International consequences and foreign investment

Any developing country which has a standing for money laundering activities or terrorist funding activities could experience a significant negative impact on their overall growth and development. Foreign financial institutions (FIs) can limit all their transactions with enterprises from money laundering heavens, make transactions more expensive, subject such transactions to extra scrutiny, and stop their overall investments.

Every legitimate business enterprise residing in money laundering heavens can suffer from restricted access to world markets or higher costs because of extra scrutiny of their ownership, control systems, and organizations.
International Consequences And Foreign Investment
As a result, loose implementation of AML and CTF policies in a country may lead to hardships in receiving foreign private investments in such a country’s economy. Furthermore, for developing countries, eligibility for foreign state help is more likely to be severely restricted.

2- Exponential increase in corruption and crime

Exponential Increase in Corruption And Crime

A country that is known as money-laundering heaven is more likely to attract criminals and encourage corruption. Various factors lead to increased corruption and crime. For instance, a weak AML or CTF regulation, weak or selective enforcement of AML/CTF provisions, burdensome seizure provisions, and limited sanctions against money laundering activities. If a country is more prone to criminal activities like money laundering, corruption is bound to happen with high intensity and value.

Criminals or money launderers take the help of bribery before the central institutions of the countries in order to make their money laundering efforts successful.

The counterparties to the bribery could be lawyers, employees, and management of financial institutions, legislatures, accountants, police officials, prosecutors, supervisory authorities, and courts.

Effective and timely practices around anti-money laundering and combating the financing of terrorism in countries can significantly reduce the scope of criminal activities, as such practices would exponentially affect the profit margins from the proceeds of financial frauds or laundering.

3- Private sector

Money launderers utilize shell companies as these companies have distinct commercial existence that might appear legal or legitimate but are actually powered and controlled by the criminals. These shell companies basically mix illegal funds with legal or legitimate funds in order to hide their unfair and unexplainable share of income. Thus, the front face companies are not merely focusing on booking profit but also protecting their illegally occupied sum.

By leveraging the power of shell companies and other investments in legit companies, the proceeds from money laundering can be used to control all industries and sectors of the economies of particular countries.
Weakened Financial Institution
This elevates the probability of monetary instability due to improper allocation of resources. It also facilitates a way to avoid taxation and hence depriving the income of the country.

4- Weakened financial institution

Problem Solving
Money laundering can damage the soundness of the country’s financial sector and the stability of financial institutions like banks. The negative consequences are usually defined as operational, reputational, concentration, and legal risks that are interrelated. Each of these risks comes with its costs associated with it.

For example, when a financial institution experiences reputational risks, they are more likely to lose public trust in the financial institution because of negative publicity.
As a result, customers, depositors, borrowers, and investors end their business relationships with the financial institutions whose reputation has been distorted by allegations of criminal activities like terrorist financing and money laundering.

5- Privatization efforts

Money launderers and criminals threaten the economies of several countries through privatization. All of these criminal organizations may surpass the legitimate buyers of any former state-owned businesses. Moreover, when the illegally occupied funds are utilized or invested in this way, money launderers enhance their potential to conduct even more criminal activities and impact the growth of the country on a negative side.
Privatization Efforts

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Advantages of a powerful AML / CTF framework

One of the excellent ways to reduce money laundering is to implement AML and CTF programs effectively. Here are a few benefits of having a robust AML / CTF framework:

1- Elevating the stability of financial institutions

Money laundering gives birth to many financial risks, and fortunately, there are sound banking practices that reduce these risks. These risks include the potential for financial institutions and individuals to suffer due to fraud, violation of laws and regulations. Lack of adequate internal controls directly aids the execution of money laundering and other criminal activities. Customer Due Diligence (CDD) processes and Know Your Customer (KYC) are the essential part of an effective AML and CTF regime. The AML and CTF framework ensure the safe and effective functioning of organizations at higher money laundering risk.

Elevating The Stability of Financial Institutions
The AML and CTF framework or policies makes an effective risk management tool. In addition to that, an effective AML and CTF regime also reduces the probability of damage to the organization due to fraudulent activities.

2- Encouraging economic development

Encouraging Economic Development
Money laundering directly impacts the economy of a country in a negative manner. Funds occupied through illegal means take a different path in the country’s economy than the statutory funds. The laundered amount is usually placed in sterile investments to preserve their original value or making them more easily transferable to other productive avenues for further investments. These investments clearly include high-value consumption assets like real estate, jewelry, art, luxury cars, or antiques. These investments simply do not create any additional products for the broader economy.

Not just this, criminal organizations can turn even the productive businesses into vicious investments by operating illegal funds for the sole purpose of laundering instead of profit-making enterprises.
Unlike the investments for legally occupied funds, a country’s response towards sterile investments ultimately reduces the productivity of the entire economy. Therefore, sturdy AML/CTF regimes are hurdles to the execution of criminal intentions in any country’s economy. Furthermore, this allows the investments to be transformed into something productive that responds to the customer’s needs and aids the economy’s overall productivity.

3- Fighting corruption and crime

A steady AML and CFT institutional framework, which incorporates a broad premise for crimes like money laundering, helps in fighting corruption and crime. Money laundering is the crime that facilitates the criminals or money launderers through underlying criminal acts and the laundering of illegally occupied funds. Likewise, an AML and CFT framework incorporates bribery as a primary offense, and its effective enforcement provides a lot fewer opportunities for the concerned person to bribe public officials or to corrupt them in any other manner.

An effective AML and CFT framework regime is a deterrent to any sort of criminal activity.
Fighting Corruption And Crime
Such sturdy regimes make it difficult for the criminals or the money launderers to get benefitted from any of their actions planned amidst the robust AML/CFT regulations. In this context, the confiscation and seizure of the proceeds of money laundering activities are vital to the success of any AML program. Loss of revenues from money laundering activities nullifies the profits and therefore reduces the incentives for criminals to take criminal actions.

Final words

With this, we now understand what social and economic impact money laundering has on the economy of the country and how to overcome or reduce the adverse effects of the same on the economy. For this, AML UAE can help, as an expert, in better implementation of AML/CFT policies in one's organization and contribute towards minimizing the negative socio-economic impact of money laundering activities.

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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Here are a few frequently asked questions about the socio-economic impact of money laundering activities.

Money laundering’s effects on economies, businesses, and societies are damaging. It promotes crime, drug trafficking, terrorism, and corruption, thereby destroying the growth of economies and societies.  

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About the Author

Pathik Shah

CISA, FCA, CS, DISA (ICAI), FAFP (ICAI)

Pathik is a multi-disciplinary professional with more than 22 years of experience in compliance, risk management, accounting, system audits, IT consultancy, and digital marketing. He has extensive knowledge of Anti-Money Laundering rules and regulations, and he helps companies comply with legal requirements. Pathik also helps companies generate value from their IT investments.

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