Freeports: innovative trading hubs or centres for money laundering and tax evasion?

Paul Michael Gilmour

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This article provides a critical overview of freeports’ trading operations and considers to what extent they may present a money-laundering and tax-evasion risk. This study reviews the literature surrounding freeports and offers an up-to-date narrative of their potential money-laundering and tax-evasion activities. The paper relies on secondary data from published sources referencing peer-reviewed articles and ‘grey-literature’ material relating to freeports, offshore finance, and anti-money laundering control. This study demonstrates the attractive trading advantages offered by freeports to enable enterprise and innovation. However, the article reveals that the secretive offshore space in which freeports operate also helps to obscure beneficial ownership and illicit trade-based practices that frustrate authorities’ efforts to trace laundered monies and recover government taxes. Despite freeports’ trade offerings, stronger regulation is needed to prevent them being abused for money-laundering and tax-evasion purposes. This study provides an important insight into the money-laundering and tax-evasion risks presented by freeports and, in doing so, advances the contemporary debate on illicit activities occurring through offshore jurisdictions.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)63-71
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Money Laundering Control
Issue number1
Early online date23 Apr 2021
Publication statusPublished - 3 Jan 2022


  • freeport
  • trade
  • tax haven
  • money laundering
  • offshore
  • free-trade zone


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