Laundered UK money could buy the White House over 1,000 times

The amount of money laundered in the UK is enough to buy the White House 1,018 times, new research shows.

The findings, from anti-money laundering service, SmartSearch, puts the amount of laundered money into perspective in a bid to draw attention to the extent of the problem worldwide.

In the UK, the total amount of money laundered in 2019 was a staggering £325 billion. For context, this sum could buy Buckingham Palace outright 271 times, or the White House, valued at £319 million, 1,018 times.

For those interested in record-breaking buildings and sporting landmarks, this sum of money could also pay for the world’s tallest building, Burj Khalifa, 217 times, or Wembley Stadium a staggering 271 times.

But how does this compare to the other world players? In 2019 in the US, the total amount of money laundered was a huge $300 billion, the majority of which was a result of healthcare fraud. This amount of money could comfortably buy the Taj Mahal ($916 million) 327 times, the Empire State Building ($1.89 billion) 158 times or even the Emirates Palace, costing $1 billion, 300 times.

Globally, research reveals that an estimated $2 trillion is laundered each year, with countries such as Mozambique and Loso among the most at risk of money laundering, as a result of non-existent regulations.

According to the Basel anti-money laundering index, the top 10 countries at greatest risk of money laundering are:

  1. Mozambique
  2. Laso
  3. Myanmar
  4. Afghanistan
  5. Liberia
  6. Haiti
  7. Kenya
  8. Vietnam
  9. Benin
  10. Sierra Leone

Aside from this list, the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) also has ‘call for actions’ in Iran and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. These countries are considered very high risk as they are not members of any anti-money laundering organisations, meaning no laws are in place to help combat money laundering, making them easy targets for money launderers.

The UK ranked 106th demonstrating a low risk of money laundering, an improved score from 2018 to 2019 showing the continued progress being made in anti-money laundering regulations.

The United States ranked far higher than the UK at 72nd in the Basel index. From 2018 to 2019 the US’s overall score has decreased, demonstrating an increased risk in money laundering, meaning more has to be done over the pond in order to strengthen anti-money laundering regulations.

John Dobson, CEO at SmartSearch, adds: “Not only can money laundering affect individual organisations, but its impact can be damaging on the whole economy as people lose confidence and become more cautious with their money.

“Despite ranking 106th in the Basel anti-money laundering index, money laundering is set to rise in post-Brexit Britain, which could lead to huge losses. The Government’s plan to create 10 ‘freeports’ is certainly a risk. These freeports are areas inside the UK that are legally considered outside the country for customs purposes, so that goods brought in through these do not face import tariffs. While these are being created in a bid to boost trade, attract inward investment and increase productivity, they have the potential to set the UK’s anti-money laundering efforts back and put us at greater risk of becoming the money laundering capital of the world.

“Whilst we know in reality that these comparisons are purely illustrative, we wanted to put things into perspective for those who don’t have the full picture when it comes to laundered money in the UK. It’s a real risk and can be hugely damaging when companies are caught out, so it’s vital that business prioritise their anti-money laundering efforts, especially now as we navigate through such a turbulent business landscape. Globally, it’s important that all countries are members of anti-money laundering organisations in order to implement the necessary laws to combat money laundering.”