Report reveals ‘6 personas’ of money launderers

By Tom Lodewyke|24 October 2017

An international security company has analysed the characteristics of people involved in the various stages of money laundering, with a view to helping businesses stamp out the criminal practice.

Security company BAE Systems Applied Intelligence released its report The Invisible Network yesterday.

The report aimed to help businesses, including law firms, understand and combat money laundering, which is worth an estimated US$1 trillion to $2 trillion per year worldwide.

Michelle Weatherhead, head of cyber and financial crime solutions at BAE Systems Applied Intelligence, said money laundering is becoming increasingly complex.


“Money laundering is an elusive and ever-evolving threat,” she said.

“On one hand, the convergence between cyber and financial crime makes it increasingly challenging to identify and mitigate risk. On the other hand, launderers are now moving beyond the banks’ walls, targeting industries such as real estate, legal and accounting to avoid being caught.

“In this context, financial services institutions can’t work in silos anymore.”

BAE Systems has identified six common ‘personas’ or identities that are typically involved in money laundering.

“The source” is the provider of dirty money, and can be a white-collar criminal, cyber criminal or organised crime gang.


“The leader” is a crime boss who needs clean cash to retain their position of power and support their activities.

 “The bystander” is someone who works with criminal clients, typically well-paying. While they may not break the law themselves, they often turn a blind eye to their clients’ wrongdoing.

“The watched” is someone in the public eye, such as a senior civil servant or politician, who can be corrupted or can facilitate corruption themselves.

“The shark” is a willing accomplice, often a professional such as a banker, lawyer, estate agent or accountant, who helps others evade sanctions and launder their illicit funds.

“The shop front” is a business built to disguise money laundering while appearing legitimate.

Ms Weatherhead said a cross-industry approach is essential in combating money laundering.

“There needs to be more collaboration among the different elements of the financial system, at three specific levels,” she said.

“Winning AML [anti-money laundering] strategies will be the ones built around a cross-department, cross-industry and cross-border collaboration framework.

“Risk and compliance experts need to collaborate with other departments, such as cyber crime units within financial services institutions.

“We also need leaders across our financial system, businesses, industry bodies and government committing to greater collaboration and information sharing, both at a local and international level. This is how we will build a true AML intelligence engine, and have a chance to keep up with criminals’ evolving methods.

“Sharing of information and actionable intelligence, which can be done through the use of sophisticated data analytics technologies, must become a top priority. As a result, financial entities and experts will become better at developing an integrated view of risk, fraud and compliance as well as upholding best practices in tackling financial crime.” 

Report reveals ‘6 personas’ of money launderers
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