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Head of UN anti-crime agency lauds Russia's efforts to stem money laundering

Head of UN anti-crime agency lauds Russia's efforts to stem money laundering

At the closing session of an international conference in St. Petersburg, the head of the United Nations crime prevention agency today saluted the Russian Federation's efforts to combat money laundering and stressed that the country had taken its place among nations engaged in the fight.

Pino Arlacchi, the Executive Director of the UN Office for Drug Control and Crime Prevention (UNDCP), made his comments at the International Conference on Illegal Economy and Money Laundering, organized jointly by the Government of Russia and UNDCP. The meeting brought together experts from Interpol, Financial Actions Task Force, the World Bank, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and law enforcement practitioners from more than 20 countries.

Russia, which in 1999 saw some $7 billion transferred to the Bank of New York in just one case of suspected money laundering, is particularly concerned about the problem. Although -- as in other countries -- figures are difficult to obtain, Russian government institutions talk of sums in the tens of billions of dollars per year in criminal funds leaving the country to international financial centres, according to UNDCP.

"Laws against money laundering are not inconsistent with respect for human rights," Mr. Arlacchi said at the conference. "They can go a long way in protecting personal freedoms and safeguarding potential victims from profit motivated crimes."

During the meeting's first day, participants considered the nature and estimated size of the illegal economy, its impact on political and economic developments and crime trends. The second day was devoted to discussions about international cooperation in combating money laundering, usage of international agreements and mutual legal assistance treaties and the role of international organizations in promoting the repatriation of illegally transferred assets.

Participants also discussed attempts to estimate the magnitude of criminal assets that are being moved internationally, which some banking experts say range from $1 to 3 trillion annually, not counting funds generated through tax evasion and corruption. Even the lower figure, says Mr. Arlacchi, exceeds the GDP of all but the world's largest economies.