Spain, leading the fight against money laundering


Money laundering, a growing shadow over the financial sector

“Concealing or disguising the origins of illegally obtained proceeds so that they appear to have originated from legitimate sources,” is how Interpol describes money laundering, an activity associated with serious crimes such as drug trafficking, extortion, armed robbery and terrorism.

Recent weeks have seen media reports on high-profile money laundering allegations from around the world, among them one involving Circle 33, an exclusive private club in Singapore, famous for its parking area crammed with Bentleys, Porsches and Ferraris. A Canadian citizen has also been accused of heading a scheme to buy arms for the Russian Federation, while similar operations have been detected in Montenegro, India and Azerbaijan.

Meanwhile, the European Commission has set a deadline of February 22 to select the location for the Anti-Money Laundering Agency (AMLA). According to Spain’s Economy Minister, Carlos Cuerpo, Madrid is "the rival to beat". It faces competition from Paris, Rome, Frankfurt, Vienna, Brussels, Dublin, Vilnius and Riga.


The dimensions of a global problem


The UN Office on Drugs and Crime estimates that the total volume of money being laundered around the world has grown significantly in recent years, exceeding €1.6 trillion a year, equivalent to about 5% of global GDP. If it were a legitimate business, it would be the third-most lucrative economic activity.

In the opinion of leading Spanish lawyer Alejandro Seoane, author of La prevención del blanqueo de capitales (The Prevention of Money Laundering), if this crime is to be combatted effectively "it is essential for financial institutions to exercise much stricter control" over their transactions and deposits.” The reason this doesn’t happen, he explains,  "is sometimes due to a lack of will, but above all due to a lack of resources."

It is essential for financial institutions to exercise much stricter control


Seoane says that most countries’ legal frameworks are adequate, and there are also bodies that actively pursue this crime and "offer very complete catalogs of possible risk operations." This is the case in Spain of the Executive Service of the Commission for the Prevention of Money Laundering and Monetary Offenses (SEPBLAC). Seoane points out, however, that it would be useful for financial institutions to have adequate technological solutions, since the laundering techniques used by criminal organizations are becoming increasingly sophisticated and difficult to detect. 


Cutting-edge technological resources


In response to the growing challenges posed by money laundering and the financing of terrorism, AVOS Tech has spent more than a decade innovating in this sector, culminating in the development of AMLcheck, a comprehensive software specifically designed to combat these threats.

Jason Pais, AVOS Tech's Director of Banking Solutions, highlights the transformative impact of technology in this field: "The irruption of AI has also been a turning point in technology applied to the fight against money laundering and terrorist financing." The integration of robotic process automation (RPA) to simplify repetitive tasks is, according to Pais, essential if the authorities are to respond effectively to increased regulatory requirements.

The irruption of AI has also been a turning point in technology applied to the fight against money laundering and terrorist financing


For his part, Miguel Soler, director of Prosegur's Legal Department, highlights the innovation leadership of Spain's banking sector. "Our country is a benchmark in innovation in the banking sector, largely due to the efforts being made by all the agents involved to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of processes based on regulatory compliance," says Soler. This collective effort has established Spain as a role model in the fight against crimes that not only entail significant economic losses but also financial and criminal penalties and reputational damage.

Since 1991, the European Union has had an Anti-Money Laundering Directive, which has been overhauled on several occasions to adapt to new scenarios such as the rise of cryptocurrencies and the globalization of criminal activities. The European Commission says these reforms seek to counter the ingenuity of criminals who seek to exploit weaknesses in the system.

Choosing Madrid as the headquarters of the European Anti-Money Laundering Agency (AMLA) would be an important step forward, both legally and technologically. "Madrid's standing would mean consolidating Spanish leadership in a regulatory field that, due to its complexity, is a real challenge for the parties involved," explains Soler. Such a decision would not only give visibility to the intense work that Spain is carrying out in the regulatory and practical field to combat financial crime at the local and international level, but would also reinforce recognition as an advanced country by the Financial Action Task Force, partly thanks to the use of innovative technologies and financial intelligence.