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Illicit Financial Flows

The Economy of Illicit Trade in West Africa

image of Illicit Financial Flows

This report is a first step towards building a qualitative understanding of the way illicit or criminal activities interact with the economy, security and development of West African states. Going beyond a traditional analysis of illicit financial flows (IFFs), which typically emphasises the scale of monetary flows, the report examines the nature of thirteen overlapping, and oftentimes mutually reinforcing, criminal and illicit economies, with a view to identify their resulting financial flows and development linkages. In taking this approach, this report identifies the networks and drivers that allow these criminal economies to thrive, with a particular emphasis on the actors and incentives behind them. As a conclusion to this work, this report proposes a series of policy considerations to assist countries to prioritise and focus their responses to reduce the development impacts of IFFs. Resolving the problem of IFFs requires responding to underlying development challenges, and tackling all parts of the problem in source, transit and destination countries.

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Criminal economies and illicit financial flows in West Africa

This report has identified several often overlapping or mutually reinforcing criminal economies operating in West Africa. They use different methods, and are enabled by networks of both domestic and international actors. This chapter proposes an analytical framework for understanding the implications of criminal economies and their IFFs, based on three factors: where the good is sourced and whether there is a local market; the actors or networks involved; and where the IFFs are earned and invested. Applying this analytical framework conveys the nature and scope of the criminal economy in question, the underlying actors, interests and incentives behind it and the priority for harm-mitigating responses. It then provides a brief look at 13 different forms of criminal economies, according to a three-part typology: illegal activities, illicit trade in legal goods and illicit resource extraction. Each case provides an overview of the scale of the flow, the geographic area of vulnerability, the key actors involved, and the implications and impacts of illicit financial flows.

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