Financial crimes are crimes against property, involving the unlawful conversion of the ownership of property (belonging to one person) to one's own personal use and benefit. Financial crimes may involve fraud (cheque fraud, credit card fraud, mortgage fraud, medical fraud, corporate fraud, securities fraud (including insider trading), bank fraud, insurance fraud, market manipulation, payment (point of sale) fraud, health care fraud); theft; scams or confidence tricks; tax evasion; bribery; embezzlement; identity theft; money laundering; and forgery and counterfeiting, including the production of Counterfeit money and consumer goods.
Financial crimes may involve additional criminal acts, such as computer crime, elder abuse, burglary, armed robbery, and even violent crime such as robbery or murder. Financial crimes may be carried out by individuals, corporations, or by organized crime groups. Victims may include individuals, corporations, governments, and entire economies.
For most countries, money laundering and terrorist financing raise significant issues with regard to prevention, detection and prosecution. Sophisticated techniques used to launder money and finance terrorism add to the complexity of these issues. Such sophisticated techniques may involve different types of financial institutions; multiple financial transactions; the use of intermediaries, such as financial advisers, accountants, shell corporations and other service providers; transfers to, through, and from different countries; and the use of different financial instruments and other kinds of value-storing assets. Money laundering is, however, a fundamentally simple concept. It is the process by which proceeds from a criminal activity are disguised to conceal their true origin. Basically, money laundering involves the proceeds of criminally derived property rather than the property itself. Money laundering can be defined in a number of ways, most countries subscribe to the definition adopted by the United Nations Convention Against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (1988) (Vienna Convention) and the United Nations Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime (2000) (Palermo Convention):
i. The conversion or transfer of property, knowing that such property is derived from any (drug trafficking) offense or offenses or from an act of participation in such offense or offenses, for the purpose of concealing or disguising the illicit origin of the property or of assisting any person who is involved in the commission of such an offense or offenses to evade the legal consequences of his actions;
ii. The concealment or disguise of the true nature, source, location, disposition, movement, rights with respect to, or ownership of property, knowing that such property is derived from an offense or offenses or from an act of participation in such an offense or offenses, and;
iii. The acquisition, possession or use of property, knowing at the time of receipt that such property was derived from an offense or offenses or from an act of Participation in such offense or offenses.
The Financial Action Task Force on Money Laundering (FATF), which is recognized as the international standard setter for Anti-money Laundering (AML) efforts, defines the term "money laundering" briefly as "the processing of criminal proceeds to disguise their illegal origin" in order to "legitimize" the ill-gotten gains of crime.