Anti-Money Laundering (AML): Unravelling Its History & Importance

Anti-Money Laundering (AML) is essential to financial regulation and law enforcement. But what exactly is AML, what regulations govern it, and who is responsible for enforcing them? In this blog, we’ll explore the basics of AML, including its role in risk management and compliance, to help you understand its importance in today’s world.

Unveiling the different facets of Anti-Money Laundering (AML), we’ll also delve into the significance of AML compliance – a set of policies and procedures developed to prevent the use of financial systems for illegal activities.

What is Anti-Money Laundering (AML)?

Anti-money laundering or AML is the process that involves the prevention, detection, and reporting of suspicious financial transactions, particularly those that may involve money laundering or terrorist financing. Criminals frequently employ techniques such as trade-based money laundering among others, to give an appearance of legitimacy to illicit funds.

AML Solution

Anti-money laundering is governed by a series of laws, regulations, and guidelines issued by various governments and international organizations. The purpose of these regulations is to prevent criminals from exploiting financial systems to launder proceeds from their illicit activities. Financial institutions must develop extensive customer due diligence and transaction monitoring under AML regulations. They are also required to file a suspicious activity report if they suspect a financial crime.

When was AML Introduced?

Efforts to reduce the acquisition of illicit funds have been around for centuries. Money Laundering increased when transactions went digital in the 1970s. This led to the formation of the Bank Secrecy Act (BSA).

The History Of AML (Anti Money Laundering)

  • Back in 1970, the United States was one of the first nations to implement AML measures and regulations through the Bank Secrecy Act (BSA). This was a vital tool in paving the way for AML processes. Banks must report transactions over $10,000, identify the people conducting them, and maintain the correct paper trails.
  • In 1986, the Money Laundering Control Act was then introduced. This established money laundering as a federal crime, and banks were now under obligation to ensure compliance with their AML regulations.
  • The Money Laundering Suppression Act followed in 1994. Banks and financial institutions now had to enhance training and develop AML procedures. Money Service Businesses (MSBs) also now had to be registered.
  • In 1998, the Money Laundering and Financial Crimes Strategy Act was formed. This required the treasury department to develop a national money laundering strategy and created the HIFCA to deal with law enforcement agencies enforcing federal, state, and local policies.
  • The Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act of 2001 (USA PATRIOT Act) criminalized terrorist financing and prohibited financial institutions from engaging in business with foreign shell banks.
  • The Intelligence Reform & Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004 involved an amendment to the BSA that required financial institutions to report cross-border electronic transmission of funds.

History of AML

Why Is Anti-Money Laundering So Important?

AML regulations benefit financial institutions for numerous reasons; let’s take a look at a few of them:

1. Reduce Criminal Activity:

Criminals, such as drug traffickers, people smugglers, and terrorists, may conceal and legitimize their unlawful funds via money laundering. The funding of organized crime and criminal networks is impeded by AML legislation, which helps to curb this illicit activity. This bolsters global efforts to improve national and international security.

2. Protect Financial Systems:

Money laundering also has the potential to destabilize financial systems, which can lead to economic crises. Ensuring that financial institutions comply with AML regulations reduces these risks and maintains the financial system’s stability. This also helps preserve public trust in financial institutions, as people can be confident they’ll remain secure.

3. Aid Law Enforcement:

Anti-Money Laundering (AML) measures also help Law Enforcement agencies by providing them access to information that can help them trace suspicious activity. Money launderers are more likely to be prosecuted in a money laundering investigation if there are significant amounts of evidence against them. If found guilty, they can face imprisonment and heavy fines.

4. Promotes a Level Playing Field

Anti-Money Laundering regulations help create a level playing field for law-abiding citizens. This is because, without proper AML compliance, businesses can gain an unfair advantage by using criminal activities to increase their profits and gain access to additional capital. By enforcing AML legislation, businesses that abide by the laws are not put at a disadvantage.

What is Money Laundering

Three Stages of Money Laundering

The purpose of money laundering is to disguise laundered funds as legitimate transactions. To do this, there are 3 stages of money laundering:

3 Stages of Money laundering

  • Placement

Placement is the first stage of money laundering and involves introducing illegal profits into the financial system. Not only does this separate the illegal profits from their criminal origins, but it also allows criminals to convert the money into other assets or use it to purchase goods and services. The following are some standard methods of placement:

1. Cash Businesses:

Money launderers add illegitimate cash to the legitimate takings; this often occurs in businesses such as car washes and casinos as the income varies.

2. False Invoicing

Dummy invoices are put through to match the cash lodged. This disguises the true nature of the invoice.

3. Smurfing

Small amounts of money below the Anti-Money Laundering (AML) threshold are added to credit cards. This is then used to pay expenses.

4. Trusts and offshore companies

These are commonly used to hide the real identity of the beneficial owners.

5. Foreign Bank Accounts

Leaving a nation with cash quantities too low to be declared on a customs form, depositing them in a foreign bank account, and then transferring them back home.

6. Aborted Transactions

A lawyer or accountant holds the funds in their client’s account to settle a proposed transaction. After a short time, the transaction is aborted, and the funds are repaid to the client from an unknown source.

7. Loan Repayments

Money launderers can use loan repayments to hide the illegal source of funds. This is done by claiming that the loan was repaid with legitimate earnings.

8. Foreign Currency Exchanges

Money launderers can exchange currency with a foreign money exchanger. This allows them to move the cash out of the country and disguise it as legitimate earnings from abroad.

  • Layering

Layering is the second stage of money laundering and involves disguising the source of funds. This can be done by transferring funds through multiple banks in different countries or using complex financial instruments such as derivatives, foreign exchange transactions, and wire transfers.

Layering is often considered the most complex stage of money laundering, as it is designed to deliberately confuse KYC and AML checks and regulatory bodies such as the Financial Action Task Force.

  • Integration / Extraction

The final step in the money laundering process is to remove the money so that it can be used without appearing to be a series of suspicious transactions. To do so, criminals often pay taxes to make the transaction seem more legitimate. E.g. they will see a 50% reduction in profits. This is either done through loans, fake employees, or dividends.

What Are AML Checks?

Anti-Money Laundering checks are measures put in place by financial institutions to identify, monitor, and report suspicious activity. Let’s examine what is involved and how they prevent potential money laundering:

AML Checks

1: KYC Checks

KYC stands for ‘Know Your Customer’ and is a process that helps financial institutions identify their customers. This includes information such as name, date of birth, and address. By verifying a customer’s identity, you can be sure they have no prior record of tax evasion, drug trafficking, or terrorism financing.

2: Transaction Monitoring

Financial institutions must monitor transactions on an ongoing basis to detect suspicious activity. The financial institution must analyze the customer’s transaction history to identify unusual activity or account behavior. Effective anti-money laundering will spot suspicious transactions and file a suspicious activity report submitted to the national crime agency or another financial intelligence unit. By continuously scrutinizing transactions and flagging anomalies, financial institutions uphold regulatory compliance and actively contribute to the global fight against financial crime.

KYC Hub Transaction Monitoring Solution

3: Politically Exposed Persons (PEPs)

Financial institutions must know their Politically Exposed Persons (PEPs) customers. PEPs often access public funds, so financial institutions must monitor and report suspicious transactions associated with such customers.

4: Sanctions Screening

Banks and financial organizations must also be aware of any sanctions that may be in place for specific countries or individuals. Sanctions Screening helps to prevent financial services from being used for any illegal activities.

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List Of Red Flags In AML

Here are a few of the most obvious signs of money laundering activities that you must keep your eye on:

1. Unexplained or Large Deposits or Withdrawal of Funds:

Any large or unexplained deposits or withdrawals of funds into a customer’s account can be an AML Red Flag.

2. Unusual Wire Transfer Activity:

Customers who regularly send and receive repetitive amounts in the same pattern may engage in money laundering activities.

3. Suspicious Transactions:

Transactions are inconsistent with customers’ normal behavior, such as large cross-border payments with no apparent economic purpose.

4. Suspicious Customers:

Customers who cannot answer satisfactory questions about their identity, source of funds, or activity in the account may be engaging in criminal economic activity.

5. Lack of Customer Due Diligence:

Financial organizations that do not conduct adequate customer due diligence can be at risk of facilitating money laundering activities.

6. Lack of Adequate KYC Measures:

Financial institutions failing to perform proper KYC checks and collect necessary documentation could indicate that they are not complying with AML regulations.

7. Unusual Activity on Dormant Accounts:

Customers who repeatedly open and close accounts or make frequent deposits and withdrawals from dormant accounts could engage in money laundering activities.

8. Unusual Requests for Anonymity:

Customers who request to remain anonymous and do not provide complete personal information may be attempting to hide their identity for suspicious purposes.

9. Structuring Transactions:

Customers who structure multiple transactions to evade currency transaction reporting requirements are laundering money.

10. Incomplete Documentation:

Customers who submit incomplete or suspicious documentation can indicate that they may attempt to hide their identity and transactions to launder money.

Why Do You Need an Anti-Money Laundering (AML) Screening Service?

If you want to conduct a comprehensive risk assessment of a company’s existing or potential customers, a screening service is a great way to ensure you comply with Anti-Money Laundering regulations and guidelines.

AML Screening enables your company to ensure that its clients do not appear on any sanctions lists associated with money laundering and financial crime. As this is such a crucial part of an AML screening process, it is incumbent upon your business to maintain compliance.

aml screening and monitoring solutions

As opposed to completing this process manually, a screening service can save your company valuable time, resources, and money in the long term. Here at KYC Hub, we offer an extensive range of services, including ongoing monitoring of your customers, workflow automation, global KYC, and corporate due diligence. Combined, these services ensure that you’re fully compliant with AML regulations. For more information, please contact our customer service team today!

What Businesses Are Using Anti-Money Laundering?

These are just a few examples of businesses that implement Anti-Money Laundering measures to ensure their security:

  • Banking

Due to the nature of the industry, banks and financial institutions need to implement effective AML measures. This ensures that high-volume transactions are investigated, transactions are protected, and the risk of money laundering is minimized.

AML Banking

  • Capital Markets

The exchange of bonds and stocks is also vulnerable to money laundering if not monitored closely.

  • Insurance

Did you know that submitting a false claim is one of the top ways launderers attempt to retrieve funds?

Through overfunding and removing policy money, laundered funds are moved at the cost of low withdrawal penalties. Monitoring these transactions and having extensive KYC and AML measures ensures this financial crime can’t be committed.

  • Retail & Consumer Goods

Legitimate retail businesses can also be used to disguise illegitimate transactions. For example, an eCommerce storefront could be used to process transactions that are happening elsewhere. AML procedures and regulations ensure this type of organized crime does not occur.

Anti-Money Laundering Laws Across The Globe

Anti-Money Laundering Laws and Regulations UK

These are the current money laundering laws in the UK:

  • Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 (POCA 2002)

POCA is the UK’s primary AML regulation and defines money laundering offenses. This seeks to prevent the perpetration and facilitation of laundering and the distribution of its proceeds. Under the anti-money laundering Act, also known as POCA 2002, companies are mandated to employ robust AML controls to detect and prevent the illicit flow of funds. There are diligence requirements that companies must adhere to, such as AML controls and transaction monitoring

  • Money Laundering Regulations 2017

The MLR tightens controls in the private sector and introduces the need for firms to implement a written AML risk assessment.

  • Money Laundering Regulations 2019

MLR 2019 law extended the scope of related industries required to implement AML measures. Additionally, it changed the way that customer due diligence, as well as enhanced due diligence, is conducted.

Anti-Money Laundering Laws and Regulations Canada

  • Proceeds of Crime (Money Laundering) and Terrorist Financing Act (PCMLTFA)

PCMLTFA is the primary legislation governing Anti-Money Laundering in Canada. The Act requires various entities, including financial institutions, money service businesses, and casinos, to establish and maintain a comprehensive AML compliance program. This program must include procedures for customer identification, record-keeping, reporting suspicious transactions, and ongoing monitoring of client activity.

  • Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada (FINTRAC)

FINTRAC is the agency responsible for administering and enforcing the PCMLTFA. Among other things, FINTRAC is responsible for receiving and analyzing reports of suspicious transactions from reporting entities, conducting investigations, and sharing information with law enforcement agencies.

  • Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre (CAFC)

The CAFC is a national anti-fraud call center collecting complaints from fraud victims, identity theft, and other financial crimes. The CAFC works with law enforcement agencies to investigate and prosecute these crimes.

  • Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions (OSFI)

OSFI is Canada’s primary regulator of federally regulated financial institutions, including banks, insurance companies, and pension plans. OSFI is responsible for ensuring that these institutions comply with the PCMLTFA and other AML regulations and assessing and mitigating AML risks in the financial sector.

Anti-Money Laundering Laws and Regulations North America

  • Bank Secrecy Act (BSA)

The Bank Secrecy Act is a U.S. law that requires financial institutions to assist U.S. government agencies in detecting and preventing money laundering. The BSA requires financial institutions to implement an AML program, report suspicious transactions, and keep records of certain transactions.

  • Financial Action Task Force (FATF)

The FATF is an intergovernmental organization that sets international standards for AML and counter-terrorist financing (CTF). The FATF has developed 40 recommendations for AML/CTF that have been adopted by over 200 countries.

  • Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC)

OFAC is an agency of the U.S. Department of the Treasury that administers and enforces economic sanctions programs against countries, entities, and individuals that pose a national security threat to the United States. OFAC regulations prohibit U.S. persons and businesses from engaging in transactions with sanctioned entities.

  • Mexican Federal Law for the Prevention and Identification of Operations with Illicit Funds (LFPIORPI)

The LFPIORPI is the primary AML law in Mexico. It requires financial institutions and other regulated entities to establish and maintain an AML program, report suspicious transactions, and keep records of certain transactions. The law also provides for the freezing of assets related to money laundering or terrorist financing.

Anti-Money Laundering Laws and Regulations Australia

  • Anti-Money Laundering and Counter-Terrorism Financing Act 2006 (AML/CTF Act)

AML/CTF act establishes the legal framework for preventing, detecting, and prosecuting money laundering and terrorism financing activities in Australia. It requires reporting entities such as banks, financial institutions, and other businesses to identify and verify the identity of their customers and to report suspicious transactions to the relevant authorities.

  • Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 (POCA)

POCA provides law enforcement agencies with the power to seize and forfeit assets that are believed to have been derived from criminal activity, including money laundering. It also establishes the Australian Federal Police’s role as the primary agency responsible for investigating money laundering offenses.

  • Financial Transaction Reports Act 1988 (FTR Act)

This act requires reporting entities to submit reports to AUSTRAC (Australia’s financial intelligence unit) on transactions that involve cash amounts of $10,000 or more. This reporting is aimed at detecting and preventing money laundering and other criminal activities.

Anti-Money Laundering Software

AML Software is an automated system designed to detect, monitor, and prevent money laundering activities.

The software helps financial organizations comply with anti-money laundering regulations set by governments and regulatory authorities. While humans once regulated AML, there has been a significant move towards using AI in recent years due to its many benefits.

AI is now used by banks, financial institutions, credit card companies, and other entities to detect suspicious transactions, analyze data to identify potential money laundering activities, and notify the appropriate authorities. Additionally, it helps to reduce human effort and paperwork involved in the process of verifying transactions.

AML Solution

How Does an Anti-Money Laundering Software Work?

AML screening software uses algorithms powered by artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), and natural language processing (NLP) to analyze financial data.

It looks for transaction patterns that might indicate money laundering activities, such as large cash deposits or transfers between high-risk jurisdictions. In addition, it also looks for suspicious behavior, such as rapid account changes or multiple transactions involving the same customer.

When a suspicious transaction is detected, the AML screening software sends an alert to the financial institution for review. This alert is then passed on to the relevant authorities for investigation. The software also provides reports and dashboards showing organizations where their risk exposure lies and how effectively they meet their regulatory obligations.

Why Are AML/CFT Laws Important?

AML and CFT laws exist to prevent money laundering and terrorist financing from negatively impacting a country’s financial system. Illicit funds have the potential to impact the stability of this system, meaning that without these laws in place, a country’s economy is at risk. Not only this, but the reputational consequences can be severe.

A robust AML and CFT framework in place can dissuade criminals from attempting to commit money laundering offenses.


We hope that this blog has helped provide an overview of why Anti-Money Laundering is so essential in today’s world. By understanding and familiarising themselves with Anti-Money Laundering procedures, financial institutions can ensure that they remain compliant with relevant regulations and keep financial systems stable. Ultimately, this helps reduce the risk of money laundering and its associated criminal activities.

If you are looking for complete AML Solutions with advanced automation that meets international standards, KYC Hub is your answer. By configuring automatic notifications, reminders, and actions based on insights, you may use our real-time monitoring service to reduce the likelihood of noncompliance. Reduce false positives and save time and money by using several alerts and risk levels.

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