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Proving the Criminal Origin of Property in Money Laundering Prosecutions

NCJ Number
R. E. Bell
Date Published
15 pages
After noting that circumstantial evidence is most often the basis for establishing the laundering of proceeds from criminal acts, this paper examines the primary types of evidence that have been used across a number of jurisdictions to build a circumstantial case of money laundering; suggestions are also offered for money laundering legislation.
Money laundering prosecutions will usually be based on circumstantial evidence, whereby a number of pieces of evidence are adduced, from which inferences are drawn to meet the standard of proof that the property in question has a criminal origin. As the illustrations used in this article show, the use of circumstantial evidence to prove the elements of money laundering offenses is now a regular practice in a wide range of legal jurisdictions. The circumstances from which the jury may be asked to draw inferences that the property constitutes the proceeds of crime is often the same evidence used to establish that the defendant also had the requisite mens rea. Types of circumstantial evidence that may be used in a money laundering case include accomplice evidence, which involves testimony from the person who caused the "creation" of the criminal proceeds, whether by drug sales, fraud, or other form of criminal activity; admissions by a defendant during a police interview; expert evidence regarding complex financial transactions; audit trails; evidence that shows the unlikelihood that the property in question has a legitimate origin; and showing that the defendant's actions make no commercial or financial sense, other than to provide concealment of the origin of the money or property. Other evidence of money laundering may pertain to the bad character of the defendant; the contamination of cash; the packaging of proceeds; the denomination of banknotes; lies by the defendant; inferences from silence; intrusive surveillance and the interception of communications; false identities, addresses, and documentation; and the overall criminal enterprise. Examples of how these various types of evidence have been used in successful money-laundering cases in various jurisdictions are described.