Nathan Vardi’s article "Cash Is King", describes some of the ways funds can be transferred during money laundering:

  • Wire Transfers
  • Credit Cards
  • Prepaid Cards
  • Digital Currency (i.e. E-Gold)
  • Cash

"Cash Is King" also briefly quotes me and mentions that cash is hard to trace.  Illicit cash can of course still be detected, particularly at border crossings, where the cash smuggler may pretend to be just an ordinary airline passenger or motorist.  Law enforcement use a variety of methods to detect cash smugglers, as set forth by the Financial Action Task Force in its February 19, 2010 report, "Detecting And Preventing The Illicit Cross-Border Transportation Of Cash And Bearer Negotiable Instruments (Copyright © FATF/OECD. All rights reserved)". 

As the Financial Action Task Force report mentions, law enforcement can detect smuggling through: canine units, personal interviews, declaration forms, x-ray and other screening methods.  The Financial Action Task Force also has its IX Special Recommendation, which describes the countermeasures effective against cash smugglers. Perhaps most surprising however, is the extraordinary amount of illicit cash which is sometimes hidden and subject to detection. 

For example, in my November 1, 2007 post "Forfeiture  &  The DEA’s Asset Search", I described a conversation I had with a DEA retiree about the Zhenli Ye Gon case.  "Forfeiture & The DEA’s Asset Search" explained how Ye Gon had been suspected of concealing over $207 million dollars of drug proceeds in his Mexico City home.  Based on paragraph 20 of the attached Special Agent’s affidavit, that November post mentioned that Ye Gon had been accused of hiding over $200 million in compartments, false walls, closets and suitcases.

(Edited February 25, 2010)

Copyright 2008-2010 Fred L. Abrams