Drug dealers in Belgium are turning to trade-based financial crime to shift funds into the legitimate economy according to Belgium’s anti-money laundering unit.

The Cell for Financial Information Processing (CFI) has also reported receiving a record 31,000 reports about suspicious money flows in 2017.

The CFI says in its annual report that it received 31,080 reports of suspicious money flows last year, a 14 per cent increase on 2016 and a full 10,000 more reports than the unit received in 2012.

Key bank role

Banks provided by far the most money laundering reports, declaring 37 per cent more suspicious deposits and transfers than they did in 2016.

Banks submitted 11,533 reports while money exchangers made 11,120 reports. The Belgian postal service submitted 1,363 and notaries 1,076 reports.

The cell reported that 1,192 new cases resulted in court proceedings while the unit discovered a total of EUR 1.41 billion euros of illicit funds.

Trade-based shift

The anti-money laundering unit also reported that drug traffickers are increasingly circumventing normal banking routes and turning to trade-based financial crime.

“Instead of transporting cash, some drug traffickers move valuable goods, such as luxury cars or luxury watches, which they then resell abroad,” the report says.

It goes on to point out that the advantage to criminals of trade-based money laundering is that it arouses less suspicion than moving large sums of cash.