December 19, 2023

Methods and Typologies of Money Laundering in the Investment Sector

An overview of money laundering methods in the investment sector, from stock manipulations to crypto, with real-world examples for each technique.

The investment sector, with its broad spectrum of activities, assets, and financial instruments, presents an attractive arena for individuals and entities seeking to launder illicit funds. The complexity and volume of transactions, coupled with the global reach of investment vehicles, can offer a veneer of legitimacy to the laundering process, making it challenging for authorities and institutions to detect and prevent such activities. Here, we will provide an overview of the most prevalent methods and typologies of money laundering within the investment sector, shedding light on the mechanisms used to obscure the origins of illicit funds.

Layering through Stock Market Transactions

This technique involves buying and selling stocks rapidly to mix illicit funds with legitimate capital. The volatility and volume of stock trades can obscure the origin of funds, mainly when transactions are spread across multiple jurisdictions.


An individual buys a large volume of stocks in various companies using illicit funds and then quickly sells them. The rapid transactions make it difficult to trace the original source of the money, which is now seemingly legitimate investment gains.

Over-the-Counter (OTC) Markets

OTC markets are less regulated than formal exchanges, making them ripe for laundering activities. Criminals can use these markets to trade stocks or commodities, benefiting from the lack of transparency and oversight to move funds unnoticed.


A launderer purchases obscure, low-value securities on an OTC market using illicit funds. These securities are then sold to a collaborator at an inflated price, transferring the money into the financial system as a legitimate transaction.

Mirror Trading

This strategy involves executing two simultaneous trades of equal value but in opposite directions. For instance, a launderer might buy a certain amount of stock in one country while selling an equivalent amount in another, effectively moving money across borders without attracting attention.


A launderer buys shares in a multinational corporation on one exchange and simultaneously sells the same number of shares on a foreign exchange. The transactions cancel each other out, but the money crosses international borders, laundered through the guise of legitimate trade.

Shell Companies and Trusts

Establishing shell companies or trusts in jurisdictions with strong privacy laws allows launderers to obscure ownership and control of assets. These entities can then be used to funnel money into investment accounts or to purchase high-value assets.


A launderer sets up a shell company in a jurisdiction with high confidentiality laws and uses it to open investment accounts. Illicit funds are transferred to the company's accounts under the guise of business revenue, then invested in the stock market or real estate.


Here, money is sent out of one country under the guise of payment for goods or services but is then invested back into the country as foreign direct investment. This not only gives the appearance of legitimate growth but also benefits from tax advantages.


Illicit funds are sent abroad, pretending to pay for non-existent services. The same funds are then brought back as foreign investments in local projects, cleaning the money through the appearance of international business dealings.

Use of Intermediaries

Financial advisors, brokers, and other intermediaries can be exploited to introduce dirty money into the investment system. These professionals may be wittingly or unwittingly involved in structuring transactions to disguise the origins of funds.


A financial broker is approached to invest a large sum of money for a client. The broker does not conduct due diligence on the source of the funds, which are invested in various financial instruments, effectively laundering the money.

High-Value Asset Investments

Investing in real estate, art, luxury vehicles, or precious metals can serve as a way to place and integrate laundered money. These assets can be bought with illicit funds and later sold, with the proceeds appearing as legitimate income.


Illicit funds are used to purchase a luxury apartment in a major city. After a period of ownership, the property is sold. The proceeds from the sale are deposited into a bank account as legitimate earnings from real estate investment.

Private Equity and Hedge Funds

These funds are attractive due to their potential for high returns and lower regulatory oversight compared to public markets. Money can be mixed with legitimate capital contributions, making it difficult to distinguish the source of funds.


A launderer invests illicit funds into a private equity fund that pools money from various investors to buy into privately held companies. The complexity and lower transparency of these investments help disguise the illicit origins of the funds.

Cryptocurrency Investments

The digital and decentralized nature of cryptocurrencies offers a modern avenue for money laundering. Investments in crypto assets can be made anonymously, and funds can be moved across borders without the regulatory oversight typical of traditional financial systems.


Illicit funds are converted into a cryptocurrency and then used to invest in various digital assets or initial coin offerings (ICOs). The crypto assets are later sold, and the proceeds are reintegrated into the financial system as gains from cryptocurrency investments.

Understanding and combatting money laundering in the investment sector requires vigilance, advanced analytical tools, and international cooperation. To prevent money laundering, companies should implement robust compliance programs, conduct thorough due diligence, and continuously monitor transactions for suspicious activities. Establishing a culture of transparency and integrity, along with collaborating with regulatory bodies, can significantly reduce the risk of illicit financial flows through the investment sector.

Have an idea? Lets get in touch!

Your message has been submitted.
We will get back to you within 24-48 hours.
Oops! Something went wrong.