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

Paul Michael Gilmour (Institute of Criminal Justice Studies, University of Portsmouth, Portsmouth, UK)

Journal of Money Laundering Control

ISSN: 1368-5201

Article publication date: 23 April 2021

Issue publication date: 3 January 2022




This study aims to provide a critical overview of freeports’ trading operations and consider 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 papers 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 study 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 from 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.



Gilmour, P.M. (2022), "Freeports: Innovative trading hubs or centres for money laundering and tax evasion?", Journal of Money Laundering Control, Vol. 25 No. 1, pp. 63-71.



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