Money Laundering as a Financial Sector Crime. A New Approach to Measurement, with an Application to Italy
Anti-money laundering regulations have been centred on the 'Know-Your-Customer' rule so far, overlooking the fact that criminal proceedings that need to be laundered are usually represented by cash. This is the first study aimed at providing an answer to the question of how much of cash deposited via an official financial institution can be traced back to criminal activities. The paper develops a new approach to measure money laundering and then proposes an application to Italy, a country where cash is still widely used in transactions and criminal activities generate significant proceeds to be laundered. In particular, we define a model of cash in-flows on current accounts and proxy money laundering with two indicators for the diffusion of criminal activities related to both illegal trafficking and extortion, controlling also for structural (legal) motivations to deposit cash, as well as the need to conceal proceeds from tax evasion. Using a panel of 91 Italian provinces observed over the period 2005-2008, we find that the amount of cash laundered is sizable, around 7% of GDP, 3/4 of which is due to illegal trafficking, while 1/4 is attributable to extortions. Furthermore, the incidence of 'dirty money' coming from illegal trafficking is higher in the Centre-North than in the South, while the inverse is true for extortions. Results are useful to discuss policy initiatives to combat money laundering.
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