Two-fifths of organised crime networks launder money through property

Two-fifths of organised crime networks launder money through property, according to the research findings carried out by Europol.

Organised crime is one of the biggest economic crime threats in the UK and Europe. New Europol research shows 41% of the most threatening criminal networks launder through property and 86% make use of legal business structures.

Europol’s research focuses on identifying the characteristics of the criminal networks that pose the highest threat.

These were identified through analysis of 821 high-risk networks involving 25,000 individuals, selected based on criteria around the threat they pose.

These networks are active in a range of crime areas, from drug trafficking to migrant smuggling, property crime and others.

The threat posed by these networks is pervasive and complex which needs for a concerted, sustained, multilateral response and joint cooperation.

Characteristics of organised crime networks

Europol developed an ABCD framework that categorised key aspects of these groups into four distinct dimensions.

The most threatening networks are:


Exhibiting a remarkable agility to adapt their criminal business processes to opportunities and challenges, including those challenges posed by law enforcement.

They are able to extensively infiltrate and misuse legal business structures. This helps their criminal businesses thrive, allows them to launder their criminal profits and shields them from detection.

86% of the most threatening criminal networks make use of legal business structures, the vast majority in the EU.


The most threatening criminal networks run borderless criminal operations.

Their activities touch upon many countries in the world, and their composition is very international, with network members from many countries in the EU and the world.

A total of 112 nationalities were represented among the members of the 821 most threatening criminal networks, with 68% of the networks composed of members of multiple nationalities.

However, looking at the locations of their core activities, the vast majority maintain a strong geographical focus and do not extend their core activities too broadly.


The highest-risk criminal networks exert strong control and focus over their criminal operations.

They tend to specialise in one main criminal business; truly polycriminal networks are the exception rather than the norm.

The leadership of 82% of the most threatening criminal networks is settled either in the main country of activity, or the country of origin of the key members.


The criminal activities and corruptive practices of the most threatening criminal networks are inflicting significant damage to the EU’s internal security, rule of law and economy.

Half of the most threatening criminal networks are involved in drug trafficking as the/a main criminal activity.

More than 70 % of networks engage in corruption to facilitate criminal activity or obstruct law enforcement or judicial proceedings.

68% of networks use violence and intimidation as an inherent feature of their modus operandi.

What this means for solicitors and firms

In its sectoral risk assessment of anti-money laundering and terrorist financing threats, the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) identified the ongoing risks of:

    • application fraud (mortgages, personal injury and immigration)
    • conveyancing fraud
    • money laundering
    • organised crime (infiltration and taking over of law firms)
    • property fraud – impersonation

Of these, the SRA highlights the growing threat of organised crime infiltration and taking over of law firms. Firms need to therefore be ever more vigilant than ever.

The National Economic Crime Centre’s cross-system professional enablers strategy acknowledges that the overwhelming majority of professional service providers want to stop money laundering and root out a corrupt minority of professional enablers that profit off the misery of others.

What can I do?

The Law Society’s anti-money laundering and economic resources are designed to help you to keep ahead of your regulatory obligations and minimise risk.


Kindly shared by The Law Society of England and Wales