Money laundering is a global phenomenon, the scope of which cannot be reliably estimated. It takes a plethora of forms, characterised by varying degrees of sophistication.
Prevention is a crucial element of anti-money laundering (AML) actions, which are not only in the domain of the state, but have increasingly involved the private sector. Checks on the identity of customers, keeping relevant records and reporting suspicious transactions to competent authorities are the cornerstones of modern AML systems.
Having started with offences related to the proceeds of trading in illegal drugs, regulators have gradually criminalised money laundering with respect to a now extensive catalogue of crimes.
Their collaborative efforts within such fora as the United Nations, the Council of Europe and the Financial Action Task Force (an informal organisation set up by the G7 countries) have led to the drafting of widely acknowledged AML standards. These principles have been complemented with various sets of self-imposed rules established by financial institutions.
The EU has taken part in elaborating international AML norms and standards. They have been incorporated into EU law by the three successive AML directives. The revision of the third, Directive 2005/60/EC, is currently under way.