Between a rock and a hard place: Central banks and trade-based money laundering in a time of stress

In times of financial crisis, importers might find themselves in urgent need of hard currency. Transnational organised crime (TOC) could insert itself into the legal supply chain at this moment of vulnerability by offering a financial life-line. In exchange, TOC would use the importers as a base for trade-based money laundering (TBML). 

This project will investigate whether countries that have recently experienced foreign exchange crises are also showing signs of increasing TBML. We will also assess whether the organisation of their financial institution, in particular the independence of the central bank vis a vis the central government plays a role in the prevention of TBML. 

Research questions

  1. How do foreign exchange crises impact trade-based money laundering?
  2. Does the institutional organisation of the central bank with the government play a role in the fight against TBML?

The questions will be explored through quantitative methods using the trade gap method to proxy TBML.

Expected impact

The ultimate objective of this research is to improve collaboration between financial institutions such as central banks and agencies in government fighting against TOC. This research will aim to inform the extent to which and the critical moments at which increased collaboration might be efficiently counter TOC. 


Dr Sami Bensassi 

Sami BensassiPrincipal Investigator
Dr Sam Bensassi, University of Birmingham