25 May 2001


VIENNA, 25 May (UN Information Service) B Many countries have turned a corner in their efforts to combat the laundering of criminals= ill-gotten gains. But, a lot of dirty money is still being moved around the globe, even finding its way into some of the world=s most prestigious financial institutions B only no one knows exactly how much and what impact it=s having.

In order to gain an up-to-date picture of the phenomenon, international financial experts from 40 countries as well as international organizations and private enterprise will meet in St. Petersburg on 5 and 6 June for a conference on AIllegal Economy and Money Laundering@.

The event is co-sponsored by the Vienna-based UN Office for Drug Control and Crime Prevention (ODCCP) and the Russian Federation.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and ODCCP Executive Director Pino Arlacchi are both scheduled to address the opening ceremony, along with Russian Interior Minister Boris Gryzlov and St. Petersburg Governor Vladimir Jakovlev. President Putin first offered to co-host the conference when he met with Mr. Arlacchi here in February.

Over the two days, the meeting is expected to cover trends and techniques in money laundering; its linkages with the illegal economy; requirements for national anti-money laundering legislation; experience in developing such legislation; the application of international agreements and mutual legal assistance treaties; and institutions acting against money laundering.

Participants will also discuss 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.

One controversial topic will be the ongoing debate in some countries between privacy rights advocates and proponents of ending bank secrecy. The UN is optimistic that a balance can be struck that would accommodate the needs of both.

Conference participants will include representatives from the UN Global Programme against Money Laundering, the International Criminal Police Organization (Interpol), Europol, the World Bank, the Financial Action Task Force, law enforcement officials and leading legal and banking experts.

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.

Is fighting money laundering an impossible challenge? ANot true@, says Mr. Arlacchi. AFor one thing, getting money laundered is far more expensive now than it used to be. Criminals today may pay 20 per cent or more to make dirty money look clean; a few years ago they paid only 5 to 6 per cent.@

Journalists wishing to cover the event should contact ODCCP’s Moscow office (Evgeni Otchkovski, fax: 0070 95 787 2129) or the UN Information Centre in Moscow (Yuri Shishaev, fax: 0070 95 230 2138). For further additional information please contact: Sandro Tucci, Spokesman ODCCP, tel.: +43 1 26060 5629.

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