The (Mis)Use of Corporate Vehicles by Transnational Organised Crime Groups in the Concealment, Conversion and Control of Illicit Finance

Principal Investigator

Dr Nicholas Lord

Research Institution

University of Manchester

Project Summary

Transnational organised crime groups and the difficulties in intervening with illicit finances have been identified as a high-priority concern by the UK government (see Serious and Organised Crime Strategy (SOCS) (2013)) and remain high on the agenda of other sovereign states and intergovernmental bodies such as the EU and UN (see for instance SOCTA (2013)).

A central issue for transnational organised crime groups is that in order to conceal their illicit finance, some form of collusion and/or cooperation with external, legitimate actors such as accountants, lawyers and other professionals may be required. One mechanism for facilitating this is the creation and misuse of legitimate business structures, such as ‘corporate vehicles’ – the EU’s Serious and Organised Crime Threat Assessment (2013: 14) foregrounds how ‘organised crime groups exploit various legal business structures and professional experts to maintain a façade of legitimacy, obscure criminal activities and profits, and to perpetrate lucrative and complex crimes’.

Licit corporate entities provide opportunities to conceal, convert and control illicit finance and the proceeds of criminal behaviours by offering an external appearance of legitimacy to the ‘beneficial owners’ (i.e. the real people who actually own them) of these entities and/or the clients who use them to transfer funds – in this latter case, third-party legitimate actors become witting, or unwitting (or wilfully blind), facilitators of organised crime activities. However, there remains a major research gap in understanding the dynamics around how organised crime groups misuse such licit corporate entities and who assists them and this project aims to address this.


This research project aims to inform our understanding of such misuse of corporate vehicles in order to support the activities of multiple stakeholder groups. For instance, the project will provide these groups with (1) a comprehensive understanding of how, why and under which conditions transnational organised crime groups use corporate vehicles for the concealment, conversion and control of illicit finance in the UK and the Netherlands and associated patterns, trends, features and impacts of these activities, and (2) a concise analysis of legal, enforcement and policy conditions that govern the creation and use of corporate vehicles for illicit finance in addition to the extent of legal/criminogenic asymmetries across the EU.

Contact Information

For further information email Nicholas at