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Money laundering

The purpose of money laundering is to disguise the origin of money or other property acquired through criminal activity to make it seem that the money or property has been obtained legally. Money laundering is an intentional criminal act, the key element being to conceal criminal assets.

Money appears in an open wallet.

Money laundering

What money laundering means?

Money laundering is an attempt to hide the origin of property or money that has been gained by illegal means. The purpose is to make that money or property appear as if it has been acquired legally. Money laundering is deliberate criminal activity. It centres on covering up illegally-acquired property.

Money laundering is an integral part of financial crime, the grey economy and organised crime. As such, it is also an established part of international crime.

A person is guilty of money laundering if they

  • receive,
  • use,
  • convert,
  • convey,
  • transfer,
  • transmit or
  • possess

property acquired through an offence in order to obtain benefit for themselves or another or to conceal the illegal origin of said property. A central aspect is that the offender is aware or suspects that the property has an illegal origin and performs one or more of the above actions despite this. 

Don’t become a mule

Offenders may attempt to lure “mules” into money laundering activities to help cover up the origin of the money. Mules may be recruited in various ways. 

Treat email-based offers of work in which the primary activity is the receipt or conveyance of money or wares with caution. Your account may be used as part of money laundering operations, allowing the offenders to cover their tracks. By receiving money without being aware of its origin, you may be committing money laundering. Acting as a mule is a punishable offence.

Predicate offences of money laundering are often linked to tax fraud, other forms of fraud and crimes such as drug smuggling and cybercrime. Cybercrime, in particular, has seen a recent increase. Additionally, corruption is a significant phenomenon associated with money laundering internationally.

Money laundering is combated by reporting suspicious activities

Many parties involved in business may encounter suspicious business activities that may be linked to money laundering. Such parties include

  • parties in the investment, financing and insurance sectors;
  • virtual currency providers;
  • auditors;
  • accountants;
  • lawyers and
  • real estate businesses.

These parties have an obligation to report any suspected money laundering they may encounter. Parties that have the reporting obligation, which, in addition to the above, also include a number of others, are very important in combating money laundering. 

What does it mean to have the reporting obligation?

Parties that have the reporting obligation must identify their customers and verify their identity. A party who has the reporting obligation must record data on their customers’ transactions, the nature and extent of their business and the grounds upon which they are using a service or product (obligation to obtain information and ongoing monitoring).

Suspicious business transactions must be reported. If you have the reporting obligation, you can file a report on the police website

Suspicions related to virtual currencies must also be reported

Virtual currency providers also have a reporting obligation under money laundering legislation.  Virtual currency providers must identify their customers and report any suspicious transactions they discover. In Finland and internationally, criminal use of virtual currency and money laundering performed with virtual currency are typically associated with the drug trade and various forms of fraud.

Supervisory authorities

In Finland, observance of money laundering legislation is monitored by the Financial Supervisory Authority, National Police Board, Patent and Registration Office, Southern Finland Regional State Administrative Agency and the Finnish Bar Association. In Åland, monitoring is performed by the Government of Åland and Lotteriinspektionen. 


Money laundering offences may be punished with a fine or imprisonment:

  • Money laundering will result in a fine or a maximum of two years of imprisonment.
  • Aggravated money laundering will result in a minimum of four and a maximum of six years of imprisonment.

Combating money laundering

The National Bureau of Investigation’s Financial Intelligence Unit handles police tasks related to combating and investigating money laundering. The unit’s duties also include preventing, exposing and investigating terrorist financing.

Parties involved in business who encounter signs of money laundering in their activities have an important role in combating the crime. Parties that have the reporting obligation shall file an electronic report with the Financial Intelligence Unit regarding any suspicious business transactions they may encounter. 

How is terrorist financing combated? 

An important part of fighting terrorism is preventing its financing. Terrorist financing is the acquisition or collection of funds from legal or illegal origins for terrorist purposes.

Terrorist financing is prevented by methods such as freezing funds that are suspected of being used for terrorist purposes. In Finland, decisions regarding the freezing of funds are made by the Financial Intelligence Unit. Administrative freezing of terrorism in Finland is controlled by a special act on freezing funds to combat terrorism.

The Financial Intelligence Unit is the expert authority on money laundering

The mission of the Financial Intelligence Unit is to prevent, expose, detect and commence investigation into crimes and terrorist financing. The unit’s operations are controlled by the Act on the Financial Intelligence Unit.

The unit receives reports regarding suspicious business transactions from parties subject to the reporting obligation, processes and analyses relevant information and provides it to other Finnish authorities. They are also involved in close international co-operation. The Financial Intelligence Unit has the right to receive, process and disclose information.