Usually, the process of Money Laundering goes through the following three stages :
(a) Placement:- The Money Launderer, who is holding the money generated from criminal activities, introduces the illegal funds into the financial system. This might be done by breaking up large amount of cash into less conspicuous smaller sums which are deposited directly into a Bank Account or by purchasing a series of instruments such as Cheques, Bank Drafts etc., which are then collected and deposited into one or more accounts at another location.
(b) Layering:- The second stage of Money Laundering is layering. In this stage, the Money Launderer typically engages in a series of continuous conversions or movements of funds, within the financial or banking system by way of numerous accounts, so as to hide their true origin and to distance them from their criminal source. The Money Launderer may use various channels for movement of funds, like a series of Bank Accounts, sometimes spread across the globe, especially in those jurisdictions which do not co–operate in anti-Money Laundering investigations.
(c) Integration:- Having successfully processed his criminal profits through the first two stages of Money Laundering, the Launderer then moves to this third stage in which the funds reach the legitimate economy, after getting inseparably mixed with the legitimate money earned through legal sources of income. The Money Launder might then choose to invest the funds into real estate, business ventures & luxury assets, etc. so that he can enjoy the laundered money, without any fear of law enforcement agencies.
The above three steps may not always follow each other. At times, illegal money may be mixed with legitimate money, even prior to placement in the financial system. In certain cash rich businesses, like Casinos (Gambling) and Real Estate, the proceeds of crime may be invested without entering the mainstream financial system at all.