Legal Translation, and Asserting a Money Laundering Defense in the International Arbitration Setting

Foreign language document translation and language interpreting play an important role in the investigation and defense of money laundering cases. Money laundering occurs when an individual or organization attempts to disguise the origin of proceeds which stem from a preceding criminal act. In other words, it is the act of transferring the proceeds made from a criminal act in order to conceal their criminal origin. In the setting of international commercial arbitration, the following elements of the offense of money laundering need to be established:

  • A predicate criminal offense occurred;
  • The predicate offense generated funds that were discretely or indirectly received by the claimant;
  • The claimant received such funds with knowledge that they derived from a predicate offense; and
  • The claimant nevertheless used such funds in the performance of the contract in arbitration in furtherance of efforts to conceal their illegal origins.*

In order to prevail on a money laundering defense, the mover must prove the funds used to perform the contract in arbitration in fact derive from a predicate criminal offense. The point of this defense is to have a contract held unenforceable. Holman v. Johnson (1775) 1 Cowp 341, 343. However, in order to both investigate and uncover the necessary proof of an incident of money laundering – along with filing the appropriate defense with the arbitrator, a foreign language translation of the evidence is required. Since the evidence involved in a money laundering case is often complex and technical, using a foreign language translator familiar with both the language and the subject is essential.

*See also: Winston & Strawn LLP. 2007: “Money Laundering as a Defense in International Commercial Arbitration: A Practitioner’s Perspective.” The International Comparative Legal Guide to International Arbitration 2007. Global Legal Group (UK)

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