Covid medical supplies provide money laundering cover

Russian Central Bank notes the rise in money laundering using PPE purchases

The economic downturn caused by Covid-19 slowed some financial crimes, but it pushed other opportunities to the fore. A recent Reuters report described money laundering in Russia that uses Covid medical supplies as a front for laundering.

Authorities from Russia’s Central Bank describe examples of suspicious purchases of medical gear from foreign locations. While the PPE purchases themselves made sense in terms of Covid-related supplies, the money went out but the masks and other equipment did not arrive. Or at least purchasers could not prove delivery or existence of the paid-for supplies.

In light of the global economic slowdown, financial criminals have had to get creative to try to avoid suspicious transfers. With theft by kleptocrats a major issue in Russia, outbound transfers of massive wealth have skyrocketed in recent decades. The Russian Central Bank  said that the pandemic has slowed down those suspicious outbound transfers compared to prior years.

An official at the Central Bank also noted the added struggle to verify identifies of account holders when banks conduct business almost exclusively online. The official asserted that documents can easily be forged with today’s technologies, and that online video conferencing is not secure enough for banking business with customers.


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