It’s hard for someone to build a profitable criminal empire these days without having a way to conceal their earnings. When you start collecting hundreds, thousands, and even millions of dollars without a good explanation, the government begins to voice their concern. It’s this problem that lead to the birth of money laundering.

The Most Successful Money Launderers in History

Money laundering is essentially a way for people to disguise large amounts of cash. People take the money acquired through criminal activity like drug selling and filter it through elaborate plans to make it look legally earned. Laundering can be done in a bunch of different ways, but the people listed below had to get creative in order to establish themselves as some of the most successful money launderers in history. Well, successful until they got caught of course.

Al Capone

This well-known American gangster built a criminal empire around himself and was earning hundreds of millions of dollars before his indictment in 1931. Capone figured that he should use a system of scattered businesses to successfully hide his cash without suspicion. He began with laundromats, since they were turnkey businesses that made it easy to cloak the dirty money flowing through them.

Ferdinand Marcos

Ferdinand was a lawyer before becoming the president of the Philippines in 1965. After solidifying his role as leader, he remained there for over twenty years. This is surprising considering the fact that he skimmed billions of dollars from the public funds in the country he was leading. Using his intellect and connections, Marcos devised a clever plan to hide his dirty money. He outsourced the money to foreign banks in the United States and Switzerland to secure it and make it hard to investigate for people in his country.

The Island of Nauru

We chose to list this one as a location rather than putting a specific person. This is because the island has been a notorious destination for people looking to launder money around the world. The small island lays around 1200 miles away from the New Guinea cost and has a unique system called “Shell Banks”. The banks don’t physically exist (they work mainly through paperwork) and they don’t require the people using the banks to state their identity. Since becoming popular, it has been estimated that the banks have collected over $71 Billion in laundered cash from groups like the Russian gangs.


Mexican Drug Cartel

The Cartel is one of the most successful and feared criminal syndicates that still operates to this day without signs of slowing down. It isn’t clear how they launder all of their money but experts have narrowed down a few methods they seem to use often. They transport large amounts of cash to the South of the United States first. Then they use the money to purchase a commodity that they then export to Mexico. The intracite trade system has made it increasingly difficult for authorities to pinpoint the billions in drug money.

Pablo Escobar

Through his lengthy and successful career as a criminal, Escobar’s name has become synonymous with the act of laundering money. His drug cartel grew to a ridiculous size and at one point he controlled the overwhelming majority of global cocaine distribution. In order to cloak his monopoly and excess of illegally acquired money, Pablo used the money itself. Through a system of large bribes he established friends in high places. He hired experts to help him out and got connected with bankers that helped his billions of dollars skim by the authorities unnoticed.

What do you think about money laundering? Is there any creative cases you can think of? Let us know with a comment below!

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