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Gravity Models of Trade-based Money Laundering

  • J. Ferwerda
  • M.A.C. Kattenberg
  • H.-S. Chang
  • B. Unger
  • L.F.M. Groot
  • J.A. 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 Utrecht School of Economics in its series Working Papers with number 11-16.

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Date of creation: 2011
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Handle: RePEc:use:tkiwps:1116
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  1. Barry Eichengreen & Douglas A. Irwin, 1998. "The Role of History in Bilateral Trade Flows," NBER Chapters, in: The Regionalization of the World Economy, pages 33-62 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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  12. Anderson, James E, 1979. "A Theoretical Foundation for the Gravity Equation," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 69(1), pages 106-16, March.
  13. 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.
  14. Friedrich Schneider, 2010. "Money Laundering and Financial Means of Organized Crime: Some Preliminary Empirical Findings," Economics of Security Working Paper Series 26, DIW Berlin, German Institute for Economic Research.
  15. Béné, Christophe & Lawton, Rebecca & Allison, Edward H., 2010. ""Trade Matters in the Fight Against Poverty": Narratives, Perceptions, and (Lack of) Evidence in the Case of Fish Trade in Africa," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 38(7), pages 933-954, July.
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