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Gravity Models of Trade-based Money Laundering

  • Joras Ferwerda
  • Mark Kattenberg
  • Han-Hsin Chang
  • Brigitte Unger
  • Loek Groot
  • Jakob Bikker

Several attempts have been made in the economics literature to measure money laundering. However, the adequacy of these models is difficult to assess, as money laundering takes place secretly and, hence, goes unobserved. An exception is trade-based money laundering (TBML), a special form of trade abuse that has been discovered only recently. TBML refers to criminal proceeds that are transferred around the world using fake invoices that under- or overvalue imports and exports. This article is a first attempt to test well-known prototype models proposed by Walker and Unger to predict illicit money laundering flows and to apply traditional gravity models borrowed from international trade theory. To do so, we use a dataset of Zdanowicz of TBML flows from the US to 199 countries. Our test rejects the specifications of the Walker and Unger prototype models, at least for TBML. The traditional gravity model that we present here can indeed explain TBML flows worldwide in a plausible manner. An important determinant is licit trade, the mass in which TBML is hidden. Furthermore, our results suggest that criminals use TBML in order to escape the stricter anti moneylaundering regulations of financial markets.

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Paper provided by Netherlands Central Bank, Research Department in its series DNB Working Papers with number 318.

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Date of creation: Sep 2011
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Handle: RePEc:dnb:dnbwpp:318
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  11. Bagella Michele & Busato Francesco & Argentiero Amedeo, 2009. "Money Laundering in a Microfounded Dynamic Model: Simulations for the U.S. and the EU-15 Economies," Review of Law & Economics, De Gruyter, vol. 5(2), pages 879-902, December.
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  15. repec:cup:cbooks:9780521196154 is not listed on IDEAS
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