Article by Vijay Pal Dalmia, Advocate, Supreme Court of India and Delhi High Court, Partner & Head of Intellectual Property Laws Division, Vaish Associates Advocates, India

Money laundering poses a grave threat not only to the financial systems of countries but also to their integrity and sovereignty. As a rapidly growing economy with a strategic geographical location, India has faced the challenges of combating money laundering and related financial crimes. To address this issue, India has implemented a robust and comprehensive anti-money laundering (AML) regulatory framework. This article takes a comprehensive look at India's AML regulatory framework, exploring its key components, enforcement measures, and the role of international cooperation in countering the scourge of money laundering.

The Foundation of India's AML Regulatory Framework

India's journey to combat money laundering began with its commitment to international initiatives. The United Nations Convention Against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances, the Basel Statement of Principles, and the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) recommendations provided the foundation for India's AML legislation. The Political Declaration and Global Programme of Action adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1990 also emphasized the need for countries to develop mechanisms to prevent financial institutions from being used for money laundering.

The Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) of 2002

The cornerstone of India's AML regulatory framework is the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) of 2002. This comprehensive legislation criminalizes money laundering and provides the legal basis for the tracing, seizure, and confiscation of proceeds of crime. The PMLA establishes specialized enforcement agencies, such as the Directorate of Enforcement (ED), to investigate and prosecute money laundering cases. It also requires financial institutions and intermediaries to maintain records of specified transactions and report suspicious activities to the authorities.

The Role of Enforcement Agencies

Enforcement agencies, particularly the Directorate of Enforcement, play a crucial role in enforcing the PMLA and combating money laundering. They are armed with investigative powers and collaborate with other law enforcement agencies to gather intelligence, conduct inquiries, and prosecute money launderers. The enforcement agencies use advanced technology, financial expertise, and international cooperation to trace and seize illicit assets, making it difficult for criminals to launder money with impunity.

Customer Due Diligence and Reporting Obligations

One of the key components of India's AML framework is customer due diligence (CDD). Financial institutions are required to implement CDD measures to verify the identities of their customers, understand the nature of their transactions, and assess the risks associated with their accounts. Additionally, they must monitor customer transactions and report suspicious activities to the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU). The FIU acts as the central agency for receiving, processing, analyzing, and disseminating suspicious transaction reports.

Prohibition of Benami Transactions

The Benami Transactions (Prohibition) Act of 1988 is another crucial piece of legislation in India's AML framework. This act prohibits benami transactions, where a property is held by one person but the consideration for it is paid by another. Benami transactions are often used to conceal the true ownership of assets acquired through illegal means, making it a potent tool for money laundering. The act allows for the confiscation of benami properties and provides a strong deterrent against such transactions.

Measures to Prevent Terror Financing

India's AML framework also addresses the issue of terror financing, recognizing the link between money laundering and funding terrorism. The Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act and amendments to the PMLA provide provisions to designate individuals and organizations as terrorist entities, freezing their assets and choking off their funding sources. This proactive approach to counter terror financing demonstrates India's commitment to global efforts in combating terrorism.

International Cooperation and Mutual Legal Assistance

Given the cross-border nature of money laundering, international cooperation is vital in combating this financial crime effectively. India actively engages with foreign jurisdictions and international organizations to exchange information, track illicit funds, and cooperate in investigations. Mutual legal assistance agreements facilitate the exchange of evidence and support the prosecution of money laundering cases with global dimensions.


India's AML regulatory framework reflects its firm commitment to combat money laundering and related financial crimes. The Prevention of Money Laundering Act, along with other relevant legislations, provides a strong legal basis for identifying, tracing, and seizing illicit assets. Enforcement agencies equipped with advanced technology and international cooperation play a vital role in enforcing the AML measures. Customer due diligence, reporting obligations, and the prohibition of benami transactions contribute to enhancing financial transparency and integrity. India's proactive approach in addressing terror financing further strengthens its AML efforts. Through international cooperation and mutual legal assistance, India contributes to the global fight against money laundering. As the financial landscape evolves, India remains vigilant and adaptive in its AML efforts, committed to making financial systems inhospitable to illicit activities.


Vijay Pal Dalmia, Advocate

Supreme Court of India & Delhi High Court

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Mobile No.: +91 9810081079



Twitter: @vpdalmia

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