Hawala and Gambling as methods of Money Laundering

Hawala and Gambling as methods of Money Laundering

1. What is money laundering? 

 

Money laundering is the process of making large amounts of money generated by a criminal activity, such as drug trafficking or terrorist funding, appear to have come from a legitimate source. The money from the criminal activity is considered dirty, and the process «launders» it to make it look clean. Money laundering is itself a crime. 

Money laundering offences have similar characteristics globally. There are two key elements to a money laundering offence: 

1.    The necessary act of laundering itself: The act of laundering is committed in circumstances where a person is engaged in an arrangement (i.e. by providing a service or product) and that arrangement involves the proceeds of crime. 

2.     A requisite degree of knowledge or suspicion relating to the source of the funds or the conduct of a client: The requisite degree of knowledge or suspicion will depend upon the specific offence but will usually be present where the person providing the arrangement, service or product knows, suspects or has reasonable grounds to suspect that the property involved in the arrangement represents the proceeds of crime. 

The processes by which criminally derived property may be laundered are extensive. Though criminal money may be successfully laundered without the assistance of the financial sector, the reality is that hundreds of billions of dollars of criminally derived money is laundered through financial institutions, annually.

The process of laundering money typically involves three steps: placement, layering, and integration. 

·        Placement puts the «dirty money» into the legitimate financial system. 

·        Layering conceals the source of the money through a series of transactions and bookkeeping tricks. 

·   In the final step, integration, the now-laundered money is withdrawn from the legitimate account to be used for whatever purposes the criminals have in mind for it. 

All countries deal with the extensive use of money-laundering tools. For instance, banks are required to report large cash transactions and other suspicious activities that might be signs of money laundering. However, with this respect the United States passed the Banking Secrecy Act in 1970, requiring financial institutions to report certain transactions to the Department of the Treasury, such as cash transactions above $10,000 or any others they deem suspicious, on a suspicious activity report (SAR) and the EU in turn, adopted Directive (EU) 2015/849 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 20 May 2015, the so called Anti-Money-Laundering Directive.

2. What is Hawala? 

 

Hawala is a method of transferring money without any money actually moving. Interpol’s definition of hawala is «money transfer without money movement.» Another definition is simply «trust.» 

The hawala system is one of the IFT systems that exist under different names in various regions of the world. The hawala system refers to an informal channel for transferring funds from one location to another through service providers—known as hawaladars—regardless of the nature of the transaction and the countries involved. While hawala transactions are mostly initiated by emigrant workers living in a developed country, the hawala system can also be used to send funds from a developing country, even though the purpose of the funds transfer is usually different. 

The very features that make hawala an attractive avenue for legitimate patrons also make it attractive for illegitimate uses. Thus, hawala is frequently referred to as underground banking. There are some attractive aspects of hawala system. Firstly, the minimal documentation and accounting requirements, the simple management, and the lack of bureaucratic procedures help reduce the time needed for transfer operations. 

Moreover, economic and cultural factors explain the attractiveness of the hawala system. It is less expensive, swifter, more reliable, more convenient, and less bureaucratic than the formal financial sector. Hawaldars charge fees or sometimes use the exchange rate spread to generate income. The fees charged by hawaladars on the transfer of funds are lower than those charged by banks and other remitting companies, thanks mainly to minimal overhead expenses and the absence of regulatory costs to the hawaladars, who often operate other small businesses. 

On the other hand, it has also some negative effects on the economy of both countries. One aspect is its potential impact on the monetary accounts of countries on either end of the hawala transaction. Because these transactions are not reflected in official statistics, the remittance of funds from one country to another is not recorded as an increase in the recipient country’s foreign assets or in the remitting country’s liabilities, unlike funds transferred through the formal sector. 

Furthermore, IFT systems have fiscal implications for both remitting and receiving countries because no direct or indirect tax is paid on hawala transactions. The negative impact on government revenue applies equally to both legitimate and illegitimate activities that involve the hawala system. 

There is also a consensus that, in the wake of heightened international efforts to combat money laundering and terrorist financing, more should be done to keep an eye on IFT systems to avoid their misuse by illicit groups. Policymakers believe that the potential anonymity afforded by these systems presents risks of money laundering and terrorist financing that need to be addressed. If the formal banking sector intends to compete with the informal remittance business, it should focus on improving the quality of its service and reducing the fees charged. 

3. Money Laundering Gambling. 

 

Casinos are by definition non-financial institutions. As part of their operation casinos offer gambling for entertainment, but also undertake various financial activities such as accepting funds on account; conducting money exchange; conducting money transfers; foreign currency exchange; safety deposit boxes; etc that are similar to financial institutions, which put them at risk of money laundering. In many cases these financial services are available 24 hours a day.

It is the variety, frequency and volume of transactions that makes the casino sector particularly vulnerable to money laundering. Casinos are by nature a cash intensive business.

Casinos are attractive venues for criminals A core function of all casino regulators is making certain that gaming is conducted honestly by approving the rules of the games and requiring the operator to provide a high standard of surveillance and security systems. This ensures public confidence in the gaming product, minimises opportunities for criminal activity and provides certainty of government revenue streams.

One of the most common criminal activity in casinos is Loan Sharking. Loan Sharking (also known as usury) is prevalent in casinos in a number of jurisdictions. Loan sharking is a crime that involves loaning money to individuals at an interest rate that is above a maximum legal rate, sometimes collected under blackmail or threats of violence.

The money-laundering methods are followings:

1.  Structuring: Structuring or „smurfing involves the distribution of a large amount of cash into a number of smaller transactions in order to minimise suspicion and evade threshold reporting requirements.

2.   Refining: Individual launderers or organised groups use casino services to refine large amounts of low denomination bank notes into more manageable high denomination notes. In cases of groups, they may seek to refine money by dividing it amongst the group before entering the casino. The group enter the casino, individually refine their portion of the money and meet again outside the casino to assemble the total amount.

3.   Casino accounts: funds are deposited by wire transfer of bank cheque, then cashed out or moved to other accounts with minimal or no gambling activity.

4.      Winnings: Money launderers will approach customers and offer them cash at a premium above their winnings.

5.  Conversion of large sums of foreign currency: launderers may use large, one-off, or frequent foreign currency exchanges or deposits of a foreign currency. This may not appear suspicious in jurisdictions with high numbers of foreign players.

6.  False identification documents: often used to conduct financial transactions at the casino, open casino accounts, undertake gambling transactions and redeem winnings.

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