"Anti-money laundering (AML) refers to efforts to prevent criminal exploitation of financial systems to conceal the location, ownership, source, nature, or control of illicit proceeds. Despite the existence of longstanding domestic regulatory and enforcement mechanisms, as well as international commitments and guidance on best practices, policymakers remain challenged to identify and address policy gaps and new laundering methods that criminals exploit. According to United Nations estimates recognized by the U.S. Department of the Treasury, criminals in the United States generate some $300 billion in illicit proceeds that might involve money laundering. Rough International Monetary Fund estimates also indicate that the global volume of money laundering could amount to as much as 2.7% of the world's gross domestic product, or $1.6 trillion annually. Money laundering is broadly recognized to have potentially significant economic and political consequences at both national and international levels. Despite robust AML efforts in the United States, the ability to counter money laundering effectively remains challenged by a variety of factors. These include: the scale of global money laundering; the diversity of illicit methods to move and store ill-gotten proceeds through the international financial system; the introduction of new and emerging threats (e.g., cyber-related financial crimes); the ongoing use of old methods (e.g., bulk cash smuggling); gaps in legal, regulatory, and enforcement regimes, including uneven availability of international training and technical assistance for AML purposes; and the costs associated with financial institution compliance with global AML guidance and national laws."
CRS Report for Congress, R44776
Federation of American Scientists: http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/index.html