How Chinese Oligarchs Used Fake Trade Invoices To Launder Almost $1 Trillion Globally

ZeroHedge

Our estimates show that the developing world lost US$991.2 billion in illicit financial flows in 2012, over ten times the amount of official development aid received by these countries in that year, and greater than the amount of net foreign direct investment received. From 2003 – 2012, US$6.6 trillion left developing country economies illicitly.
Illicit outflows from developing countries increased at a trend rate of 9.4 percent per annum in real terms over the time period from 2003 to 2012. Though growth rates of IFFs tended to be higher before the financial crisis, their volume continues to climb. Over this time period, illicit financial flows were equivalent to 3.9 percent of developing world GDP on average.
Save for a brief slowdown during the financial crisis, illicit financial flows have been allowed to grow unchecked over the past decade. In 2012, illicit outflows reached a staggering new peak of US$991 billion.
– From the Global Financial Integrity Report: Illicit Financial Flows from Developing Countries: 2003-2012

While the U.S. government loves to target and imprison small time so-called “money launderers” such Bitcoin pioneer Charlie Shrem, the real money launderers, the ones who help drug cartels and pump criminally sourced money into foreign real estate thus pricing out domestic populations worldwide, face no consequences whatsoever. 
I’ve explored this hypocrisy on many occasions, most recently in the post, Some Money Launderers are More Equal than Others Part 2 – CEO of BitInstant is Arrested. Here’s an excerpt:
Last May, I wrote an article titled: Some Money Launderers are “More Equal” than Others, which likened the U.S. government to the pigs that ruled the roost in George Orwell’s classic novel Animal Farm. In that article, I decided to compare the way the “authorities” used money laundering laws against Liberty Reserve, versus the way they tip-toed around massive money laundering for Mexican drug cartels that HSBC engaged in. Since I wrote that article, JP Morgan has been fined tens of billions of dollars for a cornucopia of criminal activities. Meanwhile, we have yet to see a single executive arrested or put behind bars. Why?

I think it is quite obvious. The United States’ “economy” has devolved into nothing more than a state-sanctioned criminal racket. A handful of oligarchs and the corporations they control, are immune from prosecution no matter what they do. They have a complete and total license to steal with impunity. Meanwhile, if a peasant is caught stealing 10 dollars or found with a dime bag of weed, it is jail for life. ‘Merica.

So now I turn your attention to the breaking news that Charlie Shrem, the impressive, young and very talented kid behind Bitcoin exchange BitInstant, has been arrested.
Shrem now sits in a prison cell for his victimless non-crime. This is how the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York proudly announced the charges against Shrem:
Screen Shot 2015-05-04 at 10.48.40 AM
Yes, you read that right. ONE MILLION DOLLARS. Meanwhile, big banks launder billions for drug cartels, and corrupt Chinese launder trillions into overseas real estate, yet take a look at who ends up in prison. A 24-year old innovator and entrepreneur who harmed no one by “laundering” a million bucks. You only need to ask yourself two questions to understand what is going on here:
  1. Who poses a greater risk to society, Charlie Shrem or HSBC executives?
  2. Who poses a greater risk to the status quo’s rigged system, Charlie Shrem or HSBC executives?
Now you know why one person sits in jail, while the others remain free. The U.S. justice system is a compete and total joke.
But I digress. This post is supposed to be about illicit Chinese funds and how it’s basically a total free for all. Much of this money has entered U.S. real estate, helping to price out American families who can barely afford rent at this point (see: 1 in 4 Renters Use Half Their Pay for Housing). I’ve focused on this issue often over the past couple of years. For example, in the post, Chinese Purchases of U.S. Real Estate Jump 72% as The Bank of China Facilitates Money Laundering, I wrote:
American citizens already have a hard enough time affording a home. Squeezed out by financial oligarchs buying tens of thousands of properties for rental income, and faced with real wages that haven’t budged since the mid-1970s, the demographic of U.S. citizens that historically dominated the new home market has been forced to live in their parents’ basements. Just to kick em’ when they’re down, Americans now face the impossible task of competing with laundered Chinese money.

While this trend may not be new, it is certainly accelerating. According to the National Association of Realtors in its annual report on foreign home purchases, transactions from Greater China (includes Hong Kong and Taiwan) were up 72% in the past year to $22 billion. In some California communities, 90% of real estate buyers are from China. Yes, 90%. Naturally, many of them are buying multi-million dollar homes in “all cash” transactions.
There have been several studies looking at how this money is laundered, but a report from Global Financial Integrity (GFI) released last December points out that fake trade invoices, i.e., misinvoicing trade transactions or trade-based money laundering, seems to be the primary vehicle used. Quartz dug into the data and provided some interesting commentary and telling charts. Here are a few excerpts:
China’s capital account might be closed—but it’s not that closed. Between 2003 and 2012, $1.3 trillion slipped out of mainland China—more than any other developing country—says a report (pdf) by Global Financial Integrity (GFI), a financial transparency group. The trends illuminate China’s tricky balancing act of controlling the economy and keeping it liquid.

GFI says the most common way money leaks out in the developing world is through fake trade invoices. The other big culprit is “hot money,” likely due to corruption—which GFI gleans from inconsistencies in balance of payments data.

In China, both activities have picked up since 2009. In fact, $725 billion—more than half of the outflows from the last decade—has left since 2009, just after the Chinese government launched its 4 trillion yuan ($586 billion) stimulus package.

Even after that wound down, the government encouraged investment to boost the economy, prodding its state-run banks to lend. Since loan officers dish out credit to the safest companies—those with political backing—this overwhelmingly benefited government officials and their cronies.

That’s left small private companies so starved for capital that they’ll pay exorbitant rates for shadow-market loans, which a lot of China’s sketchy trade invoicing outflows likely sneaked back in to speculate on shadow finance and profit from the appreciating yuan. Corrupt officials, meanwhile, shifted their ill-gotten gains into overseas real estate and garages full of Bentleys.
The paragraphs above are particularly telling. Just like in the U.S., the so-called government “stimulus” in China achieved nothing more than to stimulate an oligarch crime spree. Hence the global boom in $100 million real estate, art and everything extremely high-end. As intended, the bailouts and stimulus on a global basis went directly to the 0.0001%.
Finally, here are a couple of choice passages I found from the GFI report itself:
This report, the latest in a series of annual reports by Global Financial Integrity (GFI), provides estimates of the illicit flow of money out of the developing world–as a whole, by region, and by individual country–from 2003-2012, the most recent ten years of data availability.

The vast majority of illicit financial outflows is due to trade misinvoicing.
Can you believe it’s not Bitcoin after all!
Save for a brief slowdown during the financial crisis, illicit financial flows have been allowed to grow unchecked over the past decade. In 2012, illicit outflows reached a staggering new peak of US$991 billion.
Read that twice, and then read it again. The banker bailouts bailed out the criminals and their criminal global financial system, which then ramped to new heights of corruption and fraud in the subsequent years.
Illicit financial flows from developing countries are facilitated and perpetuated primarily by opacity in the global financial system. This endemic issue is reflected in many well-known ways, such as the existence of tax havens and secrecy jurisdictions, anonymous companies and other legal entities, and innumerable techniques available to launder dirty money—for instance, through misinvoicing trade transactions (often called trade-based money laundering when used to move the proceeds of criminal activity).
Now, here are a couple of the main conclusions from the report:
Our estimates show that the developing world lost US$991.2 billion in illicit financial flows in 2012, over ten times the amount of official development aid received by these countries in that year, and greater than the amount of net foreign direct investment received. From 2003 – 2012, US$6.6 trillion left developing country economies illicitly.

Illicit outflows from developing countries increased at a trend rate of 9.4 percent per annum in real terms over the time period from 2003 to 2012. Though growth rates of IFFs tended to be higher before the financial crisis, their volume continues to climb. Over this time period, illicit financial flows were equivalent to 3.9 percent of developing world GDP on average.
That is what Oligarchy looks like.

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