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The stages of money laundering

Money laundering is the disguising of funds derived from illicit activity so that they may be used without detection of the illegal activity that produced them. Money laundering involves three stages: placement, layering and integration.

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Placement involves physically placing illegally obtained money into the financial system or the retail economy. "Dirty" money is most vulnerable to detection and seizure during placement.

Layering means separating the illegally obtained money from its source through a series of financial transactions that makes it difficult to trace the origin. During the layering phase of money laundering, criminals often take advantage of legitimate financial mechanisms in attempts to hide the source of their funds. A few of the many mechanisms that may be misused during layering are currency exchanges, wire transmitting services, prepaid cards that offer global access to cash via automated teller machines and goods at point of sale, casino services and domestic shell corporations lacking real assets and business activity that are set up to hold and move illicit funds.

Integration means converting the illicit funds into a seemingly legitimate form. Integration may include the purchase of businesses, automobiles, real estate and other assets.

Source: FinCEN

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