An Investigator’s Guide

Panama City, Panama, a short walk from the former head office of Mossack Fonseca. Credit: Pexels

Global Endeavor Inc. Avionica International & Associates Inc. 25CC ST74B LLC. Shell companies are a fixture of global illicit finance, tools of rapacious despots, scheming mafiosi, and cheating spouses. They are implicated in almost every high-profile international crime, giving cover to sanctions busters, tax evaders, and war criminals.

Though even law enforcement struggles to identify the owners of many shell companies, the tools and data necessary to identify such companies are publicly available for use by citizen journalists, open-source investigators, and compliance analysts. …

AML News Sources

Within the crypto-universe, ideas about the morality and efficacy of anti-money laundering rules differ widely, but the risks of ignoring those rules are severe, and will become more so as regulators adapt to new technologies. Cryptocurrencies are are deeply linked to the formal financial system and are subject its laws and regulations — in the US, exchanges and brokers are considered “money service businesses,” a class that is considered to have higher risk by banks and regulators. …

AML News Sources

US Treasury Dept. Building, from Wikipedia

As a student of international relations and Middle East politics, the sheer volume of relevant blogs, Twitter accounts, podcasts, and articles was astounding — it was always easy to join the public discourse and keep up on trends. When my focus shifted to AML and financial crime, I found it wasn’t so easy. Information sources are not as plentiful, and there is not a strong informal information economy.

Here are some of the best sources I’ve found for staying on top of trends in AML. Let me know if you have other good sources!

Google Alerts

Multiple Sources | News | Link

Online resources for financial investigation

Zeta cartel members with Mexican soldiers in 2011, from Business Insider

This is the third in a series of articles discussing the internet tools I use as an anti-money laundering analyst. You can find the complete toolbox here, and my previous articles on tools for researching companies and banks here and here.

According to the US Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), annual drug sales in the US alone total $64 billion; if all US traffickers combined to form a single company, it would rank 45th on the Fortune 500, above PepsiCo, Intel, and Disney. Unlike Disney, however, traffickers need to hide the source of their wealth, and money laundering laws have always…

Online tools for investigating financial activity

This is the second in a series of articles discussing the internet tools I use as an anti-money laundering analyst. You can find the complete toolbox here, and my previous article on tools for researching companies here.

Banks play an important role in the world of financial crime. On the one hand, bank compliance units spend countless hours and billions of dollars searching for and reporting dubious transactions to assist law enforcement in stopping crime. On the other hand, banks are sometimes knowing conspirators in that crime: Danske Bank’s Estonian subsidiary, for example, appears to have funneled billions in suspicious…

A primer for the prospective analyst

Regards to Pexels for image

Questions about Michael Cohen’s finances — especially his payment to Stormy Daniels — dominated the headlines for much of 2018, and at the center of the media frenzy around Trump’s former attorney was a little-known federal document called the Suspicious Activity Report (SAR). Employees at First Republic Bank filed a SAR with the US Treasury Department after discovering suspicious transactions connected to Cohen’s shell company:

Cohen set up the First Republic account for Essential Consultants in October, 2016, shortly before the Presidential election, in order to pay the adult-film actress Stephanie Clifford, who performs under the name Stormy Daniels, a…

Online tools for investigating corporates


When I tell people I’m in anti-money laundering, eyes immediately start to glaze over. Most imagine me spending endless hours poring over boxes of dusty receipts or scrolling through endless spreadsheets. Although reviewing transactions is core to what AML analysts do — and it’s (perhaps surprisingly) a lot of fun — internet research skills can be the difference between mediocre and excellent investigators. Many lack the ability to do much more than a few basic Google searches, and give up if there are no clear results.

I’ve put together a dashboard of helpful bookmarks at the site below, and I’m…

AML Toolbox

I write about investigating financial crimes and OSINT. Find me on Twitter at @al_ajnabi_

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