Trade-based money laundering (TBML) is the process of disguising criminal proceeds through trade to legitimize their illicit origins. TBML, rather than being a single activity, refers to a variety of schemes used together to disguise criminal proceeds, which can involve moving illicit goods, falsifying trade documents, and misrepresenting trade-related financial transactions with the purpose of integrating criminal proceeds.
Criminal and terrorist organizations frequently exploit global trade systems to move value around the world by employing complex and sometimes confusing schemes associated with legitimate trade transactions. It is estimated that annual trade-based money laundering exceeds billions of dollars and is growing each year.
ICE established the Trade Transparency Unit to identify global TBML trends and conduct ongoing analysis of trade data provided through partnerships with other countries' trade transparency units. One of the most effective ways to identify instances and patterns of TBML is through the exchange and subsequent analysis of trade data for anomalies that would only be apparent by examining both sides of a trade transaction.