Money laundering is a complex process that involves making illegally obtained funds appear legitimate. Criminals employ various methods and techniques to disguise the illicit origins of money, and these methods evolve over time. Understanding the typologies and trends in money laundering is essential for effective anti-money laundering (AML) efforts.


Typologies in money laundering refer to the patterns and methods criminals use to launder money. Trends, on the other hand, describe the evolving techniques and strategies observed in money laundering activities. By identifying typologies and monitoring trends, authorities and organizations can enhance their detection and prevention mechanisms.

Historical View

Money laundering has a long history, dating back to ancient times. In the modern context, the term gained prominence in the 1970s as authorities recognized the need to combat the financial aspects of organized crime. The rise of international drug trafficking and other illicit activities further underscored the importance of addressing money laundering.

Over the years, money launderers have developed increasingly sophisticated methods to evade detection and move illicit funds. The advent of the digital age and globalization has opened new avenues for money laundering, necessitating continuous adaptation in AML strategies.

Practical Examples

Money laundering typologies can vary depending on the region, industry, and specific circumstances. Here are ten practical examples of typologies observed in money laundering:

  1. Structuring: Also known as smurfing, it involves breaking down large amounts of cash into smaller deposits or transactions to avoid suspicion.
  2. Shell Companies: Criminals create fictitious companies to mask the true ownership and control of assets, making it difficult to trace the funds’ origins.
  3. Trade-Based Money Laundering: Criminals manipulate trade invoices and transactions to overstate or understate the value of goods, facilitating the movement of illicit funds.
  4. Virtual Currencies: Cryptocurrencies provide anonymity and can be used to launder money by converting illegal funds into digital assets and transferring them globally.
  5. Real Estate Investments: Criminals invest illicit funds in real estate properties to legitimize their proceeds and obscure the money’s original source.
  6. Offshore Accounts: Money launderers use offshore banks and jurisdictions with lax regulations to conceal ownership and control of funds.
  7. Layering: Layering involves a series of complex transactions, transfers, and conversions to create confusion and obscure the paper trail of illicit funds.
  8. Online Gambling: Criminals exploit online gambling platforms to convert illicit funds into gambling winnings, which are then withdrawn as legitimate funds.
  9. Trade-Based Black Market: Criminal networks use the underground economy and informal markets to launder money by conducting transactions outside regulated channels.
  10. Prepaid Cards and Digital Payment Systems: Criminals utilize prepaid cards and online payment systems to launder money, taking advantage of their convenience and lack of strict regulations.


Statistics on money laundering highlight the scale and impact of this illicit activity:

  • The International Monetary Fund (IMF) estimates that 2-5% of global GDP, equivalent to $800 billion to $2 trillion, is laundered annually.
  • In 2020, financial institutions worldwide reported 2.4 million suspicious activity reports (SARs) related to potential money laundering.
  • According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), only 1.1% of illicit funds are seized and frozen globally.
  • The Financial Action Task Force (FATF) reports that money laundering affects various sectors, including banking, real estate, trade, and virtual assets.
  • In some regions, such as Latin America and Africa, the estimated value of illicit financial flows exceeds foreign direct investment and official development assistance.
  • Cryptocurrencies have become a preferred method for money laundering, with ransomware payments and darknet market transactions accounting for a significant portion of illicit cryptocurrency use.
  • The COVID-19 pandemic has created new opportunities for money laundering, with criminals exploiting government relief programs, healthcare fraud, and online scams.
  • Emerging technologies, such as blockchain analytics and artificial intelligence, are increasingly employed to enhance AML efforts and identify suspicious transactions.
  • Regulatory penalties for AML violations have been increasing, with financial institutions facing multimillion-dollar fines for inadequate AML controls and failures to report suspicious activities.
  • Collaboration among financial institutions, law enforcement agencies, and regulatory bodies is crucial in combating money laundering and staying ahead of evolving typologies and trends.


Several high-profile incidents have highlighted the consequences of money laundering and the need for robust AML measures:

  1. 1MDB Scandal: The 1Malaysia Development Berhad scandal involved the embezzlement of billions of dollars from a Malaysian state investment fund, with funds laundered through complex international transactions.
  2. Danske Bank Case: One of Europe’s largest money laundering scandals, involving approximately €200 billion, highlighted systemic failures in AML controls within the Estonian branch of Danske Bank.
  3. Panama Papers: The leak of documents from the Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca exposed the use of offshore entities and structures for money laundering, tax evasion, and other illicit activities.
  4. Wells Fargo Fraud: Wells Fargo faced significant penalties for creating millions of unauthorized bank and credit card accounts, which could potentially facilitate money laundering activities.
  5. Malta’s Pilatus Bank: Pilatus Bank in Malta faced allegations of facilitating money laundering and corruption, leading to its closure and subsequent legal actions.
  6. North Korea’s Illicit Activities: The North Korean regime has been accused of engaging in various illicit activities, including money laundering, to finance its nuclear weapons program.
  7. Mexican Drug Cartels: Drug cartels in Mexico have long been involved in money laundering, using a combination of trade-based schemes, cash smuggling, and front companies to legitimize their proceeds.
  8. Gold Smuggling: Criminal networks have exploited the gold trade for money laundering purposes, smuggling gold across borders or using gold as a cover to move funds undetected.
  9. Terrorist Financing: Money laundering plays a critical role in financing terrorist activities, with funds being raised, transferred, and concealed through various channels.
  10. Corruption and Bribery: Money laundering often accompanies corruption and bribery schemes, enabling the conversion of illicit proceeds into seemingly legitimate assets.

The Future

The future of typologies and trends in money laundering will be influenced by various factors:

  • Technology Advancements: Criminals will exploit emerging technologies, such as cryptocurrencies, decentralized finance, and artificial intelligence, presenting new challenges for AML efforts.
  • Regulatory Developments: Authorities will continue to enhance AML regulations and frameworks, requiring organizations to adopt more sophisticated controls and risk-based approaches.
  • Data Analytics and AI: Advanced analytics and artificial intelligence will play a crucial role in detecting and preventing money laundering activities by analyzing vast amounts of data and identifying suspicious patterns.
  • International Cooperation: Enhanced collaboration among jurisdictions, financial institutions, and law enforcement agencies will be essential to combat global money laundering networks and address cross-border challenges.
  • Focus on Beneficial Ownership: Increasing emphasis will be placed on identifying and verifying beneficial ownership to enhance transparency and prevent the misuse of corporate entities for money laundering.
  • Emerging Crime Trends: Criminals will adapt their money laundering methods to exploit new vulnerabilities and capitalize on emerging crime trends, such as cybercrime and illicit trade.
  • Combating Terrorism Financing: Efforts to disrupt terrorist financing will involve proactive intelligence sharing, targeted financial sanctions, and public-private partnerships.
  • Strengthened AML Training and Awareness: Organizations and individuals will invest in continuous education and awareness programs to stay informed about evolving typologies and trends.
  • Heightened Consumer Protection: Regulators will focus on safeguarding consumer interests by implementing stricter AML measures and encouraging responsible financial practices.
  • Role of Technology Providers: AML technology providers, such as Kyros AML Data Suite, will play a critical role in developing innovative solutions to address emerging typologies and trends.

Explore the Power of Kyros AML Data Suite

In the fight against money laundering, organizations require robust and sophisticated tools to detect, prevent, and investigate financial crimes. Kyros AML Data Suite offers a comprehensive AML compliance solution that combines advanced analytics, artificial intelligence, and automation.

Key features and benefits of Kyros AML Data Suite include:

  • Advanced transaction monitoring and anomaly detection for real-time identification of suspicious activities.
  • Enhanced customer due diligence and risk assessment capabilities to ensure compliance with regulatory requirements.
  • Automated watchlist screening and sanctions checks to identify individuals and entities involved in money laundering and terrorist financing.
  • Powerful data analytics and visualization tools to uncover hidden connections and patterns in large volumes of financial data.
  • Integration with external data sources, such as public records and regulatory databases, for comprehensive risk analysis.
  • Streamlined regulatory reporting and documentation to meet reporting obligations and facilitate audits.
  • Continuous updates and enhancements to adapt to evolving typologies and regulatory changes.

Book a demo today to discover how Kyros AML Data Suite can empower your organization in the fight against money laundering and help you stay ahead of emerging typologies and trends.


Typologies and trends in money laundering continue to evolve, challenging authorities, organizations, and individuals to remain vigilant in their efforts to combat financial crimes. By understanding the historical context, practical examples, statistics, and incidents associated with money laundering, stakeholders can enhance their AML strategies and contribute to a safer and more secure financial system.

The future of typologies and trends in money laundering will require proactive measures, collaboration, and the use of advanced technologies. Through ongoing education, effective regulation, and the adoption of innovative solutions like Kyros AML Data Suite, stakeholders can mitigate the risks associated with money laundering and contribute to a more transparent and resilient global economy.


Q: What are typologies in money laundering?

A: Typologies in money laundering refer to the patterns and methods used by criminals to make illegally obtained funds appear legitimate.

Q: Why is understanding trends in money laundering important?

A: Understanding trends in money laundering helps authorities and organizations identify new techniques and adapt their anti-money laundering efforts accordingly.

Q: How do criminals launder money?

A: Criminals launder money through various methods, such as structuring cash deposits, using shell companies, engaging in trade-based schemes, and exploiting virtual currencies.

Q: What are some recent trends in money laundering?

A: Recent trends in money laundering include the increased use of cryptocurrencies, trade-based money laundering, and the exploitation of online platforms and digital payment systems.

Q: How can organizations prevent money laundering?

A: Organizations can prevent money laundering by implementing robust AML controls, conducting thorough due diligence, monitoring transactions, and staying informed about evolving typologies and trends.