Individuals in South Carolina and around the country who are involved in illegal activities might try to conceal their crimes by using legitimate businesses to “launder” their profits. This kind of behavior is prohibited by federal and state money laundering laws, but establishing the exact provenance of business income is not always an easy task for investigators. The first money laundering laws were passed to combat organized crime groups, but they have been used more often in recent years to prosecute alleged drug traffickers and terrorist organizations.
Early federal money laundering laws
The first federal law that dealt with money laundering specifically was the 1970 Bank Secrecy Act. This law requires banks and other financial institutions to report any transactions that appear suspicious to federal investigators. Banks are also required to report any deposits of $10,000 or more. Engaging in transactions that involve the proceeds of criminal activity was outlawed in 1986 by the Money Laundering Control Act. The scope of this law was broadened, and the penalties for violating it were made more severe eight years later by the Annunzio-Wylie Anti-Money Laundering Act. Congress addressed the issue again in 1998 by passing the Money Laundering and Financial Crimes Strategy Act.
The war on terror
The laws dealing with international financial transactions and money laundering were overhauled in 2001 following deadly terrorist attacks in New York City and Washington, D.C. Title II of the Patriot Act deals almost exclusively with this issue and is known as the Money Laundering Abatement and Anti-Terrorist Financing Act. Banks are now required to appoint compliance officers, implement money laundering staff training and conduct regular internal audits. They can also be prosecuted when money laundering is allowed to occur due to acts of willful blindness.
Mounting a defense against money laundering charges
White-collar crimes like money laundering may appear straightforward as they are usually based on documents that could be difficult to refute. However, this kind of evidence can be bewildering to juries, which is why prosecutors often seek to resolve these cases through plea negotiations. If you are accused of a white-collar crime, an experienced criminal law attorney may study the evidence against you to determine whether pursuing a plea agreement or fighting the charges in court would be the wisest course of action.