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The Money Mule: Its Discursive Construction and the Implications

The proceeds of cybercrime are typically laundered by money mules—people used by criminal organizations to interrupt the financial paper trail by transfering money for the criminals. This Article analyzes the discursive construction of the money mule in documents of national and international anti-money laundering authorities such as Financial Intelligence Units (FIUs), Europol, and the Financial Action Task Force (FATF). It shows how case study narratives, visualizations, and metaphors contribute to an understanding of the money mule as an innocent victim of organized crime networks from West Africa and Eastern Europe, supported by money remittance companies like Western Union. These constructions have several implications: First, they make awareness-raising campaigns the key policy response “at home” (i.e., in countries in the North and West). Second, they imply a policy reaction of playing tough with “sovereigns on the margins of the law” deemed “abroad” (i.e., countries in the South and East). And third, they direct blame and responsibility towards financial transmitters, but they let banks get away.

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