ENGLISCH/924: Questions to Mrs. Gobbledygook (194) - money laundering (SB)


194. What is a money laundry?

Dear Mrs Gobbledygook

I heard the phrase "money laundering" in school. I might be naive but a money laundry sounds as if it has something to do with washing money. It's not in the dictionary. I suppose it has something to do with dirty money. But could you possibly give me some more details about what is meant by this?


Aga M. (Ghana)


Dear Aga

When "money laundering" is used in the news it most often refers to a suspicion of crime: "A man has been charged with tax salvation and money laundering" or "police are concerned about organized crime and aware of gambling, prostitution, drugs and money laundering. See the following extract from a report about financial problems in an island in the South Pacific some time ago:

" was forced to reform its fiscal systems after the organisation economic cooperation and development warned it could face sanctions, if flex taxation regimes were exploited by criminals for money laundering..."

If you like a good crime story the blood stained clothes are usually found in the laundry and also if you regularly wash your clothing it's possible you're familiar with the word "laundry". It is a noun to describe a place where washing is done or to describe all the clothes which need to be washed as in the phrase "to do the laundry". Now you're probably thinking 'what's grime (dirt) got to do with crime?"

Well another word for washing or to do the washing is to launder. When something has been washed it's been laundered.

Criminals have money from the proceeds of crime, perhaps from selling drugs or smuggling people, which is in fact "dirty money". To make the money appeal coming from a legitimate source the criminals try to hide the sequence of documents or the paper trail which could identify the source of the money. They have to create a false trail to make the money look as if it has been earned honestly, perhaps appearing to come from the sale of a house, or winnings from a casino or horse race. They don't literally wash the money but money that has been "laundered" to appear as if it came from a legitimate source is "clean" money. The process of hiding its source which can vary in complexity and sophistication is known as "money laundring".

Authorities in many countries are attempting to follow the paper trail which will reveal how resistance groups for example are receiving money. Not finding such a trail they only come up with one answer: "money laundering".


Miranda Gobbledygook

29 January 2014