Money laundering investigations have been much in the news of late. There have been stories that Radil Salinas de Gortari laundered kickbacks from drug traffickers while his brother was President of Mexico. That Ferdinand Marcos stashed nearly half a billion dollars in Swiss banks while he ruled the Philippines. That two of Mexico's largest banks have pleaded guilty to laundering charges stemming from a controversial U.S. sting operation. That the former prime minister of Ukraine pleaded guilty to Swiss charges that he laundered $9 million in stolen funds, even as he faced U.S. charges of laundering $114 million. And, of course, that Russian organized crime networks laundered billions of dollars through the Bank of New York. Despite the new-found celebrity of the crime, laws against money laundering have roots as long as those of RICO.

This article will trace those origins, after evaluating RICO. The article then will consider whether domestic and international efforts to combat money laundering provide better means than RICO for fighting organized crime. It will demonstrate that anti-money-laundering laws themselves are complex and burdensome, yet of dubious effectiveness. The article will recommend a new crime-fighting balance, one that accords due weight to the privacy and other interests of law-abiding businesses and individuals.