Money Laundering Vs. Terrorist Financing

"Money laundering and the financing of terrorism are financial crimes with economic effects. They can threaten the stability of a country's financial sector or its external stability more generally. Effective anti-money laundering and combating the financing of terrorism regimes are essential to protect the integrity of markets and of the global financial framework as they help mitigate the factors that facilitate financial abuse. Action to prevent and combat money laundering and terrorist financing thus responds not only to a moral imperative, but also to an economic need."
– Min Zhu, Deputy Managing Director of the IMF

The most basic difference between terrorist financing and money laundering involves the origin of the funds. Terrorist financing uses funds for an illegal political purpose, but the money is not necessarily derived from illicit proceeds. On the other hand, money laundering always involves the proceeds of illegal activity. The purpose of laundering is to enable the money to be used legally.

While Money Laundering is a process by which the illicit source of assets obtained or generated by criminal activity is concealed to obscure the link between the funds and the original criminal activity, Terrorist Financing provides funds for terrorist activity. It may involve funds raised from legitimate sources, such as personal donations and profits from businesses and charitable organizations, as well as from criminal sources, such as the drug trade, the smuggling of weapons and other goods, fraud, kidnapping and extortion. While these two phenomena differ in many ways, they often exploit the same vulnerabilities in financial systems that allow for an inappropriate level of anonymity and non-transparency in the execution of financial transactions.

Terrorists use techniques like those of money launderers to evade authorities' attention and to protect the identity of their sponsors and of the ultimate beneficiaries of the funds. However, financial transactions associated with terrorist financing tend to be in smaller amounts than is the case with money laundering, and when terrorists raise funds from legitimate sources, the detection and tracking of these funds becomes more difficult.


To move their funds, terrorists use the formal banking system, informal value-transfer systems, Hawalas and Hundis and, the oldest method of asset-transfer, the physical transportation of cash, gold and other valuables through smuggling routes. 


The table below is a summary of it.