Money laundering is practised exclusively by criminal organisations that have attained a proven level of professionalism. It occurs at a certain point in the criminal cycle because it enables an illicit enterprise to legitimise the origin of their funds and benefit from their gains while remaining unpunished. Nonetheless, most professional traffickers think in a sequential manner, that is, first they are interested in how to set up their activity (purchase, logistics, distribution) and only much later in how they are going to hide the origin of the profits they make.
However, the money-laundering phase is crucial for those involved in the criminal world. Moreover, public authorities have been working to combat money laundering for more than thirty years, with, of course, varying degrees of success, depending on the relevant legal provisions, their application and preventive effects.
In the context of the European drug market, this paper provides an exploratory analysis of a method of laundering drug money that law enforcement agencies (LEAs) identify through the use of ‘cash collectors’. We first highlight the main actors of cash collecting linked to drug trafficking, then we discuss its organisation, especially the interpenetration of networks, and, finally, we highlight some salient elements of public responses to the problem in a number of European countries.
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