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Decoding Money Laundering: Penalties for money laundering (Part 3)

Penalties for money laundering can vary widely depending on the jurisdiction and the specific circumstances of the crime. Money laundering is a serious offense that involves the process of making illegally obtained money appear legitimate. Governments around the world have implemented various laws and regulations to combat money laundering, and these laws often include severe penalties to deter individuals and organizations from engaging in such activities.

Here are some common penalties for money laundering:

  1. Imprisonment: Money laundering convictions can result in significant prison sentences. The length of the sentence can vary based on factors such as the amount of money involved, the degree of involvement, and the jurisdiction’s laws. In some cases, individuals may face decades in prison.
  2. Fines: Money launderers can be subject to substantial fines. These fines can also vary widely depending on the jurisdiction and the severity of the offense. In some cases, fines may be in the millions of dollars or more.
  3. Asset Forfeiture: In many cases, assets that are involved in or derived from money laundering can be seized and forfeited by the government. This includes cash, property, vehicles, and other assets that were used in the laundering process.
  4. Restitution: Courts may order money launderers to pay restitution to victims or affected parties to compensate for their financial losses.
  5. Civil Penalties: In addition to criminal penalties, individuals and entities involved in money laundering may also face civil penalties, such as being barred from certain financial activities or industries.
  6. Enhanced Penalties: Some jurisdictions have laws that allow for enhanced penalties if the money laundering activity is linked to other criminal activities, such as drug trafficking or terrorism.
  7. Professional Consequences: Money laundering convictions can have significant professional consequences, including loss of professional licenses, reputational damage, and difficulty finding employment in certain sectors.
  8. International Cooperation: Many countries cooperate in combating money laundering through international agreements and organizations like the Financial Action Task Force (FATF). Non-compliance with international anti-money laundering standards can result in sanctions and restrictions.



United States of America

Money laundering is a serious crime that carries severe penalties in the United States. Individuals and organizations found guilty of money laundering can face the following fines and penalties:

  1. Domestic Money Laundering (18 USC Section 1956(a)(1)) and International Money Laundering Offenses (Section 1956(a)(2)): Conviction can lead to imprisonment for up to 20 years and a fine of up to $500,000, or twice the value of the proceeds involved in the illegal activity.
  2. ‘Sting’ Violations (1956(a)(3)): Those found guilty can be sentenced to up to 20 years in prison and fined up to $250,000 (or up to $500,000 for organizations).
  3. Section 1957 Offenses: Conviction can result in a maximum prison term of 10 years and a fine of up to the greater of either $250,000 or twice the value of the criminally derived property involved in the offense. Entities can face fines of up to $500,000 or twice the value of the illicit funds involved.
  4. 31 U.S.C. § 5332 (Bulk Cash Smuggling) Offenses: Individuals involved can be imprisoned for up to five years, and any property involved in the offense must be forfeited.


In addition to these penalties, funds that were mixed with illegal proceeds to facilitate money laundering are subject to forfeiture.

However, it’s important to note that the maximum sentences are not always imposed. In fiscal year 2020, the average sentence for money launderers in the U.S. was 64 months. Nonetheless, a significant percentage (87.7%) of those found guilty received prison sentences.

Judges have some discretion when determining sentences for money laundering. They may consider factors such as:

  • Awareness of the laundered funds being linked to specific criminal activities.
  • Holding a leadership or supervisory role in the offense.
  • Obstructing or impeding the administration of justice.
  • Involvement in laundering monetary instruments.



Section 4 of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) outlines the penalties for money laundering. It states that a person found guilty of money laundering can face imprisonment for a minimum of 3 years, which can extend up to 7 years, in addition to a fine. Notably, the imprisonment term is rigorous. However, in cases related to offenses under the Narcotic Drugs & Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985, the punishment for money laundering can be more severe, with imprisonment up to 10 years.

Section 5 of the PMLA deals with the attachment of property involved in money laundering. According to this section, the Director, Joint Director, or Deputy Director has the authority to attach property for a period of 180 days if they have reasonable grounds to believe that the property is connected to criminal proceeds. This attachment follows the procedures outlined in Schedule II of the Income-tax Act, 1961. The reasons for the authority’s belief must be documented in writing, and the order for attachment must be sealed.

After the confiscation of the property, all the rights and titles of the property therefore shall be transferred to the government.


The primary legislation governing anti-money laundering efforts in Singapore is the Corruption, Drug Trafficking and Other Serious Crimes (Confiscation of Benefits) Act (CDSA). This law makes it a criminal offense to engage in any transactions involving property that represents, whether wholly or partly, the proceeds of drug trafficking or other criminal activities, whether directly or indirectly derived.

Individuals found guilty of money laundering in Singapore can face penalties as stipulated in Section 54 of the CDSA. These penalties include imprisonment for a maximum of 10 years, a fine of up to S$500,000, or both.

Singapore also has the Payment Services Act (PSA), which serves as a regulatory framework for payment service providers. The Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) is the designated authority responsible for overseeing compliance with payment regulations and investigating allegations related to money laundering within the country’s financial institutions.

The Commercial Affairs Department of the Singapore Police Force (SPF) plays a crucial role as the primary law enforcement agency tasked with investigating money laundering allegations. Investigations into money laundering cases may also involve cooperation with other agencies such as the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB) and the Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB).

To bolster its efforts in combating money laundering, Singapore has established the Suspicious Transaction Reporting Office (STRO). This intelligence unit is responsible for monitoring and receiving reports of suspicious transactions (STRs), cash movement (CMRs), and cash transactions (CTRs) to identify and prevent money laundering activities.

Please note that this article does not constitute express or implied legal advice, whether in whole or in part. For a Consultation or if you simply require more information, email us at


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