qué es el lavado de dinero y qué son las directivas aml

What is Money Laundering (AML) and How to Prevent It

March 26, 2024

Key takeaways


1. Understanding AML and KYC: Grasping the essentials of Anti-Money Laundering (AML) and Know Your Customer (KYC) practices is crucial for businesses to combat financial fraud and maintain compliance with global regulatory standards.

2. The Impact of Money Laundering: Money laundering is a global issue that undermines economic stability, fuels organized crime, and poses significant risks to the financial sector, with an estimated 800 billion to 2 trillion dollars laundered annually.

3. Stages of Money Laundering: Recognizing the three stages of money laundering—placement, layering, and integration—enables financial institutions to detect and prevent the integration of illicit funds into the legitimate economy.

4. Robust Identity Verification: Implementing a robust identity verification system like Didit's KYC, which utilizes NFC technology and facial biometrics, is pivotal in enhancing the security and integrity of financial transactions and customer onboarding.

Money laundering or capital laundering is the process by which criminals attempt to legitimize money with an illegal origin. AML policies (Anti-Money Laundering) aim to encircle this practice that commonly serves to launder money originating from activities like drug trafficking, corruption, or terrorism.

A global issue with significant consequences, as it affects the global economy, weakens the financial system, and fuels organized crime. In fact, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) estimates that every year between 800 billion and 2 trillion dollars are laundered worldwide, which could equate to 5% of the global GDP.

In response to this situation, AML directives aim to reduce and eliminate this illegal practice, giving increased responsibility to regulated entities to fight against these financial crimes. To this end, it is essential to have a secure, reliable, and robust identity verification service (KYC).

What are AML Directives?

AML regulations are designed to protect and maintain the health of the financial system. These directives ensure that financial organizations implement certain measures to prevent and detect money laundering and report suspicious transactions or activities to the competent authorities.

What measures must institutions implement to combat money laundering?

While AML directives design the regulatory framework, organizations are the ones that must apply this regulation to end money laundering. Some of the most common measures include KYC processes or transaction monitoring, but there are more.

  • Identity verification. The process by which the individual confirms their identity to the organization. This step is key in detecting and preventing money laundering.
  • Transaction monitoring. Supervising transactions allows for the detection of suspicious activities.
  • Risk analysis. Analyzing customer risk also plays a role in this process.
  • Employee training. Educating the team about the regulations and monitoring can help reduce fraud.
  • Internal audits. Studies within the company can help optimize processes and strengthen areas that are weak in prevention.

Who Sets the AML Standards?

The Financial Action Task Force (FATF), an intergovernmental organization based in Paris and operating under the umbrella of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), is the leading authority in creating standards to combat money laundering and terrorist financing (CFT) globally.

FATF establishes 40 recommendations that member countries must implement in their legal and regulatory frameworks. These recommendations cover a wide range of topics, such as customer due diligence (CDD), suspicious transaction reports (STR), or issues of international cooperation.

FATF's standards are widely accepted as the international benchmark for fighting this financial fraud. Over 180 countries and jurisdictions have committed to implementing its recommendations, meaning the standards significantly impact how financial institutions worldwide operate and manage money laundering risk.

Nationally, each country is responsible for implementing the recommendations in their own legislation and practices. This means specific AML regulatory frameworks can vary from one country to another.

In Spain, for example, the primary responsibility for overseeing compliance with money laundering regulations falls on the Executive Service of the Commission for the Prevention of Money Laundering and Monetary Offenses (SEPBLAC). SEPBLAC sets guidelines and norms for obligated entities, like banks, financial institutions, and professional services firms, and oversees their compliance.

In the United States, the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) is the main agency responsible for combating money laundering and terrorist financing. FinCEN issues regulations and guidance for financial entities and monitors their compliance.

In the United Kingdom, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) is responsible for overseeing compliance with anti-money laundering standards by financial entities. The FCA has the authority to impose sanctions on entities that fail to comply with the standards.

It's crucial to note that these anti-financial fraud regulations are constantly evolving. FATF regularly reviews and updates its recommendations to reflect new threats and trends in the global landscape. Financial institutions must stay up-to-date with the latest AML norms and regulations to ensure they are meeting their obligations and protecting their financial systems from the risk of financial crimes.

The Stages of Money Laundering

Typically, the money laundering process goes through three stages: placement, layering, and integration.

Stage 1: Placement

In this initial stage, the goal is to introduce the cash (or colloquially, place it) into the financial system. Classic examples of placement include cash-intensive businesses, real estate transactions, and gambling. Other methods might involve paying off debts with cash or exchanging currency to convert part of the money into another denomination. Some launderers even transport cash to countries with less stringent financial oversight.

Stage 2: Layering

Layering is the process of creating a complex web of transactions that obscures the illicit origin of the funds and protects the identities of the criminals. Transfers across multiple accounts or repeated currency exchanges are red flags for regulators and law enforcement. Banks and lenders are required to conduct due diligence to detect such activities.

Stage 3: Integration

In the final stage, the laundered money is reintroduced into the legitimate financial circuit and returns to the criminal or the organization. The layering process makes it difficult to distinguish between legal and illegal funds. Assets like real estate, vehicles, artwork, or jewelry bought in the previous stage can now be used or sold by the criminals. Another common tactic is issuing false invoices to shell companies to receive payments for nonexistent goods or services.

The Difference Between AML and KYC

KYC is a common requirement within all AML regulations. While the former focuses on knowing and identifying the individual, the latter deals with the entire regulation related to money and its traceability.

A robust identity verification method allows organizations to have a reliable base of individuals distanced from fraud. That's why it's so important to have comprehensive and robust verification and validation solutions like Didit Business solutions.

discover how didit technology works

How to Prevent Money Laundering: Didit's KYC

Didit offers the most secure identity verification service on the market, based on NFC technology and facial biometrics, minimizing any identity fraud attempts, a problem that is exponentially growing in recent times.

While Near Field Communications (NFC) allows for reading the chip and validating the information issued by competent bodies, biometrics powered by Artificial Intelligence ensures that the person undergoing the KYC process is indeed who they claim to be. Thus, our identity verification solution has a 99% accuracy rate.


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