Report: international money laundering on the rise in Finland

The phenomenon is relatively new in the country, say authorities, and they've already had success in shutting down some operations.

File picture of cash machine / Credit: News Now Finland

The National Bureau of Investigation NBI says it recorded dozens of cases of international money laundering in Finland last year, and has so far seized €225,000 from crime gangs.

Detective Chief Inspector Heikki Majamaa says police have they’re aware of dozens of criminals who arrived in Finland last year, who were transferring money illegally. The so-called ‘money mules’ opened up hundreds of bank accounts all over the country.

As part of the investigation, NBI’s Financial Intelligence Unit issued 15 orders to freeze bank accounts, totaling €225,

“For the first time, in the spring of 2018, incidents that had been carried out in this way were brought to the attention of the Finnish police. People had different means of obtaining Finnish identity cards with counterfeit identity documents” says Chief Inspector Majamaa.

“The documents used were for example forged documents from Romania, Denmark and the Czech Republic. Counterfeit identity documents and employment contracts have opened accounts in Finland with several banks” he adds.

File pic of computer keyboard with handcuffs and judge’s gavel / Credi: iStock

International and organized crimes

Police say that so-called professional ‘money mules’ or money launderers are in general more commonly found elsewhere in Europe than Finland.

According to NBI, the professional money laundering business is a relatively new phenomenon even in Europe.

In 2017 the Financial Intelligence Unit took part in a project with Europol and Eurojust – an EU wide judicial cooperation unit – to gather information on professional money laundering activities in the European Union.

“At that time, similar cases had been detected in several European countries. For example, in Poland there was a case where the total number of criminal offenses related to one entity was €30 million” says Majamaa.

Police say that professional mules operate across borders and when they arrive in a new country like Finland the first thing they do is set up a large number of bank accounts with false personal information and fake documents.

After that, money from foreign accounts will be transferred to the new Finnish bank accounts, and then either quickly withdrawn in cash, or transferred on again to other foreign countries.

According to the police, the key ways of preventing these sort of activities are strong cooperation and information exchange between authorities and banks.

“Finland’s reputation within these ‘money mulesä is influenced by, among other things, account opening practices, ease of obtaining personal identification numbers and account usage tools, and the ability to use an account abroad. Cross-country criminals are particularly active during the summer season, so it is possible that the spring will bring an increase in activities in Finland” says Heikki Majamaa.