The Economic and Social Consequences of Money Laundering

It can be easy to understand the impact of money laundering on the initial victims – those who lost funds as a result of the predicate crime – but there can be an even deeper, more lasting effect on society as a whole.

While some fear that Anti-Money Laundering (AML) efforts can have a damaging effect on commerce, especially in developing nations, let us take a look at a number of ways money laundering hurts us all. We'll focus on emerging nations as the impact there can be magnified to extreme proportions.

The first, and most obvious, impact is the increase in corruption and crime. In many jurisdictions that are havens for successful laundering one often finds lax concern on the part of government and / or regulators – few predicate crimes, little or no reporting, enforcement, penalties or provisions to confiscate illicit funds, etc. Those conditions can then foster bribery of government and bank officials, lawyers, accountants and others. Once that beachhead is established, it is not long before bribery turns eyes away from other, even violent, crime.

The second impact (valid in any jurisdiction) is on legitimate businesses. Where a launderer uses a front company to hide his illegal funds, it is possible, even probable, that the operations of the front company may be subsidized. This can enable the front company to sell products at or below cost, driving their legitimate competition out and opening the door for expansion by the front company. As the front company grows, it provides a greater opportunity for the launderer to move even more illicit funds. In a developing country, it would not take long for the criminal / launderer to gain control of an entire industry.

However, it must be emphasized that the launderer does not share the same objectives of legitimate business owners, who strive to maximize their returns through the profitable, ongoing operations of their enterprises. The launderer's primary concern is not his return, but the successful cloaking of the origin and ownership of the funds he controls.

It is in this disregard for normal business practices that leads to another area of ​​concern – economic distortion. Launderers often invest their money in assets or activities that are not economically beneficial to the countries where the funds are located. For example, right now, in a world where real estate prices have dropped sharply in the last few years due to the mortgage bubble bursting and other global pressures, property prices in Nairobi, Kenya are soaring – increasing 2-3 times in the last 5 years. And is it any wonder? With lax money laundering laws and a 500-mile shared border with Somalia, it is easy to guess where much of the Somali piracy ransom money has gone. This has taken home ownership right out of the hands of many hard-working Kenyans.

Such distortions can, in turn, lead to governments misinterpreting economic data. Without seeing the true economic trends of their country, leadership is prone to make decisions that are not …

The Role of Islamic Finance in Economic Stability and Social Justice

One of the most distinguishing times for the US Islamic home financing industry began in February 2007. The Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation (Freddie Mac) sent out a press release announcing that it would no longer buy the most risky subprime mortgages and mortgage backed securities. Two months after the announcement, a leading subprime mortgage lender filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. Three months after that bankruptcy filing, nationwide financing entities warned of "difficult conditions" ahead. Manifestations of such difficult conditions appeared on the horizon of the financial market when once well-established mortgage companies suddenly began to file for Chapter 11. Similar circumstances reached the UK as the Bank of England cleared an authorization to provide liquidity support to Northern Rock, the The country's fifth largest mortgage lender. Five months later, Treasury of the United Kingdom became the owner of Northern Rock.

Up until that point, the gravity of these "difficult conditions" was not fully understood by most of the populace. Late in 2008, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York was authorized to lend $ 85 billion to the AIG. This was the beginning of the most serious recession in the United States since the Great Depression. What followed was a chain reaction that led to an unprecedented global financial crisis, as the world suffered from rising unemployment, rampant foreclosures, and severe skepticism of financial instruments.

This led to a renewed spotlight on an unfamiliar market segment that appeared comparatively more stable and, more importantly, far more ethical: the Islamic financing sector. From the financial centers in Malaysia to the Middle East, spanning across over seventy countries, Islamic finance in the US increased from $ 5 billion in the 1980s to $ 1 trillion in 2010. This phenomenal growth caught the attention of global investors who were seeking to safeguard their investments through more ethical and reliable financial instruments. When financial sector workers realized that these Shariah-compliant instruments avoided many of the worst effects of the global financial crisis, it became an attractive investment vehicle to support a more diverse portfolio. The Shariah-compliant financial sector has avoided investment in predatory lending businesses and overly leveraged financial instruments due to the strict ethical nature of the Shariah governance system. News and media outlets started to cover this ancient yet unfamiliar industry in hopes of learning from the mistakes of the conventional banking sector.

The concept of the modern Islamic financial services industry is rooted in the principles of Islamic legal jurisprudence that deals with financial transactions, a branch of Islamic jurisprudence called Fiqh Al Muamalat. Fiqh Al Muamalat is a framework under Islamic Law that charts the conduct of Muslims in commercial or economic endeavors. Islamic finance products and rulings are based on specific injunctions from the Quran that prohibit certain features of financial transaction models and related economic activities.

The Quran forbids interest, also called usury or riba. The underlying reasoning is that Islam considers lending to be a charitable act to help another member of the society in …

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