Former Treasury Special Agent Discusses New Book on Illicit Financial Flows

John Cassara, an AML expert and former Treasury Special Agent, has released a new book; Money Laundering and Illicit Financial Flows: Following the Money and Value Trails. John’s newest work is available on Amazon. More information on John and his past work is available on his website.

Outside of crimes of passion—for example, murder committed in a jealous rage—criminals, criminal organizations, kleptocrats, and some businesses and corporations are motivated by greed.  In today’s increasingly interconnected world, the criminal manifestations of unchecked avarice impact all of us: politically, socially, economically, and culturally.  Transnational crime affects our individual and collective security. 

The magnitude of crime is measured in the multi-trillions of dollars annually.  Laundering or hiding and disguising the proceeds of crime is essential for criminal organizations.  Unfortunately, the last 30 years have demonstrated that our anti-money laundering (AML) countermeasures are not effective.  Examining “metrics that matter” such as criminal forfeitures and money laundering convictions in the United States and around the world, we are “a decimal point away from total failure.”  Meanwhile, government and industry AML enforcement and compliance measures cost multi-tens of billions of dollars every year – far more than we ever recover.  If we do not make changes, the outlook going forward looks grim. 

Nevertheless, there is reason for hope.  Fifty years after the Bank Secrecy Act initiated the era of “following the money,” Congress is starting to realize that our money laundering countermeasures are not effective.  This is exemplified by bi-partisan legislation supported by the FACT Coalition and other actors to update federal anti-money laundering laws and end the incorporation of anonymous companies in the U.S.  Yet even if that modest step is enacted, much more remains to be done.  As Ron Pol, a respected anti-money laundering researcher said, existing “anti-money laundering [legislation] is the least effective of any anti-crime measure, anywhere.”  That’s a powerful statement and, unfortunately, one I believe is quite true. 

My new book, Money Laundering and Illicit Financial Flows: Following the Money and Value Trails, is the first new book on money laundering in years.  This AML book is different than most, as it takes a critical look at our AML track record and urges fundamental changes and reforms.  Both softcover and e-versions are now available via Amazon

This is not an academic book.  Written primarily from a law enforcement perspective, Money Laundering and Illicit Financial Flows examines old and new money laundering methodologies.  It exposes threats, enablers, and facilitators.  I “tell it like it is.”  Making the case for an AML paradigm shift, the book offers alternative steps forward. 

AML is a broad topic.  I selected topics of interest.  FACT Coalition members are concerned about many of the issues covered.  Chapters include: Why Laundering Matters; Sobering Statistics; Money Laundering Basics; Illicit Financial Flows; Bulk Cash Smuggling; Trade-Based Money Laundering; Alternative Remittance Systems; Real Estate; Illicit Tobacco; The Misuse of the International Gold Trade; China: The Biggest Money Laundering Threat; Technology: Cell Phones and Cyber Laundering; Enablers; and More Forward Steps.  I combine facts, straight-forward explanations, case studies, as well as personal experiences and commentary.  

It’s clear: we must do a better job of holding criminal organizations, kleptocrats, rogue businesses, and even countries that cheat and engage in illicit activity accountable. I offer this book to those in the public and private sectors, policymakers, as well as students and concerned citizens, to make that happen.    

John Cassara is a former Treasury Special Agent.  He has been involved in AML/CFT work for 30 years.  More information is available at