Europe

On February 28, the Finnish markka ceases to be. The police there are on the lookout for money laundering.

Criminals rush for Euros

The police are faced with the extraordinary task of tracking large amounts of illicit funds during the changeover to the common European currency, the euro.

By the beginning of March, all drug money and black market earnings must be exchanged into euros. The police estimate that the amount of illicit, criminally obtained money in Finland amounts to billions of Finnish. Most of this money is in cash. Police are aware of an additional 2 billion markka obtained through white-collar crime. But this is only the tip of the iceberg, police say—an estimated 90 percent of white-collar crimes go undetected.

The National Bureau of Investigation now expects that notifications of suspected money laundering will increase near the end of the year as members of the underworld notice they need to exchange their illicit funds into euros or other currencies.

However, the police admit that many criminals have prepared for the introduction of the common currency for a long time. The police have received some 2,000 notifications of suspected money laundering this year, up from 1,000 last year. Around 10 percent of the notifications lead to police investigations.

According to the information from the police, considerable sums of illicit money have lately been exchanged into U.S. dollars and Swedish krona. Illicit funds have also been transferred abroad, invested in real estate and various securities. The police are surprised that real estate brokers have submitted only two notices of suspected money laundering this year. Large amounts of illicit funds normally trade hands in the real estate business, particularly in cash.

Money laundering is difficult to trace in our modern society as most money transfers are electronic. Hundreds of thousands of transactions take place in Finnish bank accounts each day. It is nearly impossible for banks to recognise which transfers involve illicit funds.

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