A Few Book Recommendations on Illicit Financial Flows


I've been doing a lot of reading recently on the topic of illicit financial flows (IFFs). Illicit financial flows refers to the movement of money, that is illegally earned, transferred, or otherwise illicitly used, across borders. IIFs are a form of illegal capital flight. The study of IFFs is interesting in part because the subject touches on international relations, financial crime, international law, economics, and even history and political affairs.


Although IFFs are not a new issue, the topic remains very current and relevant today, and does not receive nearly as much attention as it should. Understanding IFFs can help us better understand, and take action against, some of the most critical global issues, such as environmental degradation, terrorist finance, human trafficking, cybercrime, narcotics trafficking, and the rise in transnational criminal organizations, to name just a few.


Below is list of four books about this topic (in order of most recently published), which I highly recommend:

  1. Money Laundering and Illicit Financial Flows by John A. Cassara, and self-published by John Cassara in 2020. John Cassara has had a nearly three decade long career working in the federal government intelligence and law enforcement communities and is an expert in anti-money laundering and counterterrorist finance. This book provides his unique perspective "from the trenches." It is written mostly from a law enforcement standpoint and covers both old and new money laundering methodologies.

  2. Dark Commerce: How a New Illicit Economy is Threatening Our Future by Louise I. Shelley, and published by Princeton University Press in 2018. Louise I. Shelley is a scholar of illicit trade and also an expert in her field. She's a professor of public policy at George Mason University in Washington, DC, and the founder and director of the Terrorism, Transnational Crime and Corruption Center. This book is a comprehensive analysis of illicit trade from the time of its origins. Shelley goes on to examine how new technology, communications, and globalization have fueled the rise in illegal trade. The book concludes with a discussion about various ways to respond to the challenges posed by illicit trade.

  3. Smuggler Nation: How Illicit Trade Made America by Peter Andreas and published by Oxford University Press in 2013. Peter Andreas is another expert and scholar as well as a professor of political science and international studies at Brown University in Rhode Island. His book offers a very insightful perspective into the history of smuggling in the United States and how it fueled America's growth.

  4. Illicit: How Smugglers, Traffickers and Copycats are Hijacking the Global Economy by Moisés Naím, and published by Arrow Books in 2007. Moisés Naím is a Venezuelan journalist and writer as well as a Distinguished Fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. He has had a very interesting and distinguished career, including as the editor and publisher of the journal Foreign Policy, as well as serving as the Minister of Trade and Industry in Venezuela and the Executive Director of the World Bank. He was one of the first to write about the workings of illegal industries. His book reveals the scale of illicit trade and its various manifestations and examines the inner workings of illegal industries. He also discusses how globalization contributes to illegal trade and makes it so difficult to defeat.

Happy reading! Enjoy!


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