Money laundering and terrorism financing in virtual environments: a feasibility study Academic Article uri icon


  • Purpose – There is a clear consensus of opinion that virtual environments and virtual currencies pose a money laundering and terrorism financing threat. What is less clear, however, is the level of risk that they pose. This paper aims to clarify the suitability of virtual environments for conducting money laundering and terrorism financing activities. Design/methodology/approach – A number of experiments were conducted to estimate the quantity of funds that could be moved through these environments. These experiments took into account a number of factors such as the number of accounts that would need to be opened to launder/raise a specific amount of funds, the amount of funds that could be placed within a certain timeframe and the transaction limits imposed by each of the massively multiplayer online games and online financial service providers involved in the money laundering and terrorism financing scenarios. Findings – The findings of this research show that money laundering and terrorism financing can take place inside virtual environments. Virtual money laundering and terrorism financing offer high levels of anonymity, potentially low levels of detection, and remove many of the risks associated with real-world money laundering and terrorism financing activity. However, this comes at the cost of ease, time and, in some cases, the amount of funds laundered. Large sums (millions of dollars) can be laundered in virtual environments, but this exponentially increases the level of effort involved in setting up accounts and placing, layering and integrating funds. Originality/value – A number of authors have described potential virtual money laundering scenarios, but some of these are out-of-date due to closed loopholes, all are rudimentary and make no attempt to discuss the practicality or feasibility of using these scenarios. This research addresses those issues.

publication date

  • 2014