, Volume 45, Issue 4-5, pp 315-336
Date: 11 Nov 2006

Fighting terror with error: the counter-productive regulation of informal value transfers

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This paper challenges the widely shared view that the United States and international frameworks regulating terrorist finance and money laundering (AML/CFT) is productive and effective. Through a careful look at the evidence regarding the formal and informal fund transfer systems, this paper shows that security, crime control and economic policy objectives are systematically frustrated by ill-conceived and misapplied rules. US federal and state regulations in particular illustrate how unrealistic, unaffordable and counter-productive are current arrangements. The paper concludes with some suggestions about how to reverse the ongoing fact-free policy making process.

Research on which this paper is based was sponsored by a US National Institute of Justice grant for a study of “Terrorist Finance and the Nexus with Transnational Organized Crime: Commodities Trade and the Social Organization of al Qaeda Groups,” grant no. 2003-DT-CX-0001 and by the World Bank.