What is Money Laundering?
The term “money laundering” refers to the activities and financial transactions that are undertaken specifically to hide the true source of the money. In most cases, the money involved is earned from an illegal enterprise and the goal is to give that money the appearance of coming from a legitimate source.
Why is IRS Involved in Money Laundering Investigations?
One look at the daily news is proof that the crimes dealing with or motivated by money make up the majority of criminal activity in the nation. Tax evasion, public corruption, health care fraud, money laundering and drug trafficking are all examples of the types of crimes that revolve around money. In these cases, a financial investigation often becomes the key to a conviction. For this reason, IRS is one of the key agencies involved in money laundering investigations.
Money laundering is a very complex crime involving intricate details, often involving numerous financial transactions and financial outlets throughout the world. Criminal Investigation has the financial investigators and expertise that is critical to “follow the money trail.”
Criminal Investigation focuses on money laundering where the underlying conduct is a violation of the income tax laws or violations of the Bank Secrecy Act. According to the IRS, money laundering is the means by which criminals evade paying taxes on illegal income by concealing the source and the amount of profit. Money laundering is in effect tax evasion in progress.
When no other crimes could be pinned to Al Capone, the Internal Revenue Service obtained a conviction for tax evasion. As the astonished Capone left the courthouse he said, "This is preposterous. You can't tax illegal income!" But the fact is income from whatever source derived (legal or illegal) is taxable income.
Had the money laundering statutes been on the books in the 1930's, Capone would also have been charged with money laundering. However, since October 1986, with the passage of the Money Laundering Control Act, organized crime members and many others have been charged and convicted of both tax evasion and money laundering.
When a criminal has a large amount of illegal income, they have to do something with it in order to hide it from the IRS. They attempt to launder it to make it appear as if it was from a legitimate source, allowing them to spend it or invest it in assets without having to worry about the IRS and tax consequences.
One of the ways to launder illegal proceeds is to move the money out of the United States and then bring it back in a clean form, often disguised as loan proceeds. Another method is to channel or co-mingle the money through various business activities to give the appearance that the money was derived from a legal source.
Why a Financial Investigation?
Financial investigations are by their nature very document intensive. They involve records, such as bank account information or real estate files, which point to the movement of money. Any record that pertains to or shows the sequence of events involving money movement is important. The major goal in a financial investigation is to identify and document the movement of money during the course of a crime. The link between where the money comes from, who gets it, when it is received and where it is stored or deposited, can provide proof of criminal activity.
IRS investigations of illegal income cases involving money laundering are critical components of the nations National Money Laundering Strategy. The long hours of tracking and documenting financial leads allows an investigation to go right to the door of the money launderers and eventually to the leader of the illegal enterprise. A complete financial analysis and reconstruction of the illegal activity (i.e. a drug organization or an abusive trust scheme) will document the financial activities related to unreported income on tax returns and money laundering which is usually key to securing a conviction.
Money laundering creates an underground, untaxed economy that harms our country’s overall economic strength. It is a global threat that erodes our financial systems.