Uncovering Financial Crime: Going Beyond Rule-Based Approaches with a Connected Perspective

By Sean Robinson, MS / Director of Data Science

May 30, 2024


Reading Time: 3 minutes

Money laundering, the process of disguising the origins of illicit funds, poses a significant challenge in the financial sector worldwide as it serves as the lifeblood for organizations that engage in illicit activities such as terrorism, drug trafficking, and human trafficking.

Traditional methods of detecting and investigating financial crimes which are primarily based on heuristics have historically often struggled to take advantage of the underlying structure of relationships involved in money laundering schemes, leaving a large portion of existing data in financial institutions untapped. However, with the emergence of graph technology, institutions that adopt this methodology have the tools to not just detect the nature of money laundering, but its underlying structure. This blog explores the role of graph technology in detecting and investigating money laundering schemes, offering insights into its effectiveness and potential impact.

Understanding Money Laundering

Money laundering is a critical component of various financial crimes, enabling criminals to conceal the proceeds of illegal activities. As long as it has existed, combating money laundering has existed as a cat & mouse game between regulators like the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN), along with teams from financial institutions and the criminals who are constantly working to find new ways to obfuscate the origins and destinations of their funds. Techniques such as smurfing, structuring, and layering are commonly employed to obscure the source and destination of illicit funds. Detecting money laundering using traditional methods is challenging due to the complexity and volume of financial transactions involved, highlighting the need for innovative approaches.

money laundering structuring smurfing layering example
Graph Database Technology: An Overview

Graph database technology, rooted in graph theory, offers a versatile framework for representing and analyzing complex relationships in data. Unlike traditional relational databases, graph databases excel at capturing the interconnected nature of financial transactions, making them ideal for detecting and investigating money laundering activities. Key concepts in graph theory, such as contextual neighborhoods, centrality measures, and community detection, play a crucial role in uncovering suspicious patterns and connections within financial datasets, particularly when analyzing connections between many accounts.

The use of such graph databases also allows organizations to bring together otherwise siloed datasets into one cohesive data store. This heterogeneous knowledge graph can then provide a context-rich environment that can add unique value to detection, investigation, and processing.

By wielding both an in-depth knowledge of these graph theory concepts, as well as intimate domain knowledge, one can combine the two to create a potent combination of skills to uncover complex networks of criminal activity

Leveraging AML (Anti Money Laundering) Graph Technology

Building an AML knowledge graph is a multifaceted process that involves bringing together many layers of financial transactions, accounts, demographic information, and relationships between them. At its core lies the identification of key entities and their interconnections within the financial ecosystem. These entities encompass various elements such as accounts, transactions, and individuals, each playing a crucial role in understanding the flow of funds and detecting illicit activities.

The utility of a financial crime knowledge graph is further enhanced by the application of graph algorithms. These algorithms, ranging from centrality measures to community detection and clustering techniques, empower analysts to identify anomalies and discern patterns indicative of money laundering. Centrality measures, for instance, highlight pivotal nodes within the graph, potentially pointing to key players in illicit schemes. Community detection algorithms aid in identifying clusters of related entities, shedding light on complex networks of collusion. Clustering techniques, on the other hand, group together entities exhibiting similar characteristics, facilitating targeted investigations into potentially nefarious activities.

AML Graph technology example

Moreover, the integration of graph machine learning techniques introduces a predictive dimension to the analysis. By leveraging the wealth of interconnected data within the graph, machine learning models can uncover nuanced relationships and behaviors, providing predictive insights into potential instances of money laundering. These techniques enable analysts to stay ahead of evolving tactics employed by financial criminals, preemptively identifying and thwarting illicit activities.

Building a financial crime knowledge graph is a complex process that draws upon a wide range of tools and methodologies. By harnessing the power of connections between data and advanced analytical techniques, analysts can effectively detect and combat money laundering to safeguard the integrity of the financial system.


In conclusion, AML graph database technology offers a powerful approach to detecting and investigating money laundering schemes, leveraging its ability to uncover complex relationships and patterns within vast datasets. As financial crimes continue to evolve, embracing AML graph database technology is crucial for financial institutions to stay ahead of emerging threats and safeguard the integrity of the global financial system.

This blog calls for a concerted effort among financial institutions to embrace graph technology in their anti-money laundering efforts, highlighting its potential to drive meaningful change and combat financial crime effectively.

Graphable helps you make sense of your data by delivering expert analytics, data engineering, custom dev and applied data science services.
We are known for operating ethically, communicating well, and delivering on-time. With hundreds of successful projects across most industries, we have deep expertise in Financial Services, Life Sciences, Security/Intelligence, Transportation/Logistics, HighTech, and many others.
Thriving in the most challenging data integration and data science contexts, Graphable drives your analytics, data engineering, custom dev and applied data science success. Contact us to learn more about how we can help, or book a demo today.

We are known for operating ethically, communicating well, and delivering on-time. With hundreds of successful projects across most industries, we thrive in the most challenging data integration and data science contexts, driving analytics success.
Contact us for more information: