Compliance and AML in Belgium: a booming sector with growing pains

Antoinette Verhage (Research Group Social Analysis of Security, Ghent University, Ghent, Belgium)

Journal of Money Laundering Control

ISSN: 1368-5201

Publication date: 8 May 2009



The purpose of this paper is twofold: first, the paper will map Belgian compliance officers' practices and challenges, and second, it makes an attempt to assess the effectiveness of their input in the anti‐money laundering (AML) chain in Belgium: what are actual results of the fight against money laundering?


The research starts from a criminological point of view, studying the preventive AML‐policy by focusing on the compliance function in banks. In order to study this preventive approach more concretely, a survey was sent to Belgian compliance officers, asking about their practices. Second, the available statistics on 13 years of AML in Belgium were studied.


The function of compliance officer implies a number of challenges or “growing pains”; problematic access to information, lack of feedback from the authorities, limited investigative means. Furthermore, although the investments of private organisations in AML have been substantial, the outcome of the AML chain seems modest.

Research limitations/implications

This paper reflects the first phase of an on‐going research (2006‐2009). The results presented here are therefore preliminary.


Belgium implemented a regulatory framework in 2001, obliging the installment of a compliance function within banks. The value of this research lies in the fact that this booming professional group has never been subject of research before, even though they play a crucial role in AML in particular and crime fighting in general. It is therefore of great importance to study compliance officers' views, practices, and opinions in order to get a grip on this new type of “policing”.



Verhage, A. (2009), "Compliance and AML in Belgium: a booming sector with growing pains", Journal of Money Laundering Control, Vol. 12 No. 2, pp. 113-133.

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