German money laundering cases up sharply: watchdog

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The number of recorded money laundering cases in Germany increased markedly in 2009, figures presented on Wednesday by the financial market watchdog BaFin and BKA federal police agency showed.

A total of 9,046 cases of money laundering were uncovered, an increase of 23 percent from the previous year, the two institutions said.

The number has more than tripled since 1995 and "nearly 5,000 new cases were discovered in the first half of 2010," BKA president Joerg Ziercke told a press conference in Frankfurt.

A key reason for the increase is tighter controls on financial intermediaries who make bank accounts available for illicit transactions, he added.

Money laundering, the process of hiding the origin of ill-gotten gains so they can be invested in legal activities, helps finance criminal and terrorist organisations.

"In almost one-third of investigations into organised crime, there are cases of money laundering," Ziercke said.

Last year, 98 cases of money laundering also revealed possible links to terrorist financing, the two institutions added.

BaFin head Jochen Sanio said money laundering was not punished severely enough in Germany and better international cooperation was needed to fight criminals effectively.

German fines amounted on average to a few tens of thousands of euros (dollars), which was "almost a joke" compared with some other countries, he said.

© 2010 AFP

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