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Money laundering in Germany 'far bigger than thought'

Money laundering in the European Union's powerhouse has reached dimensions not forecast by experts to date, a fresh study has shown. The country also appears to be a magnet for criminals from further afield.

The study commissioned by the Finance Ministry in Berlin said over 100 billion euros in money-laundering deals took place every year in Germany. That's double the amount experts initially assumed, according to researchers from Halle-Wittenberg University.

The "dark areas of the non-financial sector" mentioned in the study include transactions in property, cars and art works and are estimated to involve between 15,000 and 28,000 cases of money laundering each year - far more than are actually brought to court.

The majority of this criminal activity comes to light during the sales of yachts and other expensive luxury items, such as rare watches, the study finds.

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ECB and Germany promote limiting the use of cash

No efficient checks in place

It adds that a lot of money is also laundered in the gambling and catering sector where special firms are set up to this end. A large proportion of that money comes from abroad which is attributed to Germany's attractive financial situation.

The German Finance Ministry had recently owned up to a lack of appropriate measures against money laundering on a regional level where state governments are in control of non-financial sectors.

The author of the study, Kai Bussmann, suggested the number of such illegal transactions could be decisively stemmed by

placing a cap on the amount of money allowed to be paid in cash.

A number of other European nations have already introduced national cash payment ceilings, but empirical evidence as to whether this has dealt a blow to money laundering activities remains scarce.

hg/hch (dpa, AFP)

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