One reason for China's rise as a money-laundering hub is that years of grinding enforcement have made traditional havens for hiding money less appealing.
Western countries led by Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States froze $1.4 billion in stolen assets in the two and a half years ending in June 2012 — more than they froze during the four years from 2006 to 2009, according to a study by the Stolen Asset Recovery Initiative, an effort led by the World Bank and U.N. to fight money laundering and corruption. That initiative was founded in 2007. One year later, the U.S. launched a crackdown on hidden offshore accounts, targeting some of Switzerland's largest banks.
"London and New York aren't as safe as they used to be," said Bill Majcher, a former financial crimes investigator for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and founder of founder of EMIDR Ltd., a cyber-security consultancy in Hong Kong. "Where is another location where there are large banks, but an opaqueness for Western banks and courts to seize my savings?"
China is the answer to that question for con men, criminals and drug lords from around the world, The Associated Press showed in an investigation this week.