[Ads-l] Antedating of Launder (Money)

Baker, John 000014a9c79c3f97-dmarc-request at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU
Wed Sep 6 20:35:15 UTC 2023

The verb "launder" (OED v. 1.b.), meaning to transfer funds of dubious or illegal origin, and then later to recover them from what seem to be "clean" (i.e., legitimate) sources,  is thought to have originated with the Watergate scandal; the earliest example in the OED is from April 1973.  However, the term predates Watergate (although it was rarely used before then).  Here is an example from a newspaper article with anticrime suggestions.  The Arizona Republic, Oct. 20, 1970, at 16, col. 3 (NewspaperArchive):

<<4.  Put an end to the current practice of hiding land holdings, in numbered trust accounts.

              Law enforcement officials say much illegal money is "laundered" through land purchases which are run through numbered trust accounts.  Under present law, they cannot determine the actual parties holding the trust accounts.  A bill to allow them to get this information, for a state purpose, failed in the legislature two years ago.

              It should be revised and passed.>>

The OED also has its first example of the related term "money laundering" from July 1974.  Here is an earlier (but Watergate-related) example from The Washington Post, Sept. 25, 1972, at A20, col. 2 (ProQuest Historical Newspapers):

              <<Who were the contributors to the $10 million secret fund and what were they promised?  What do the reports to Mr. Mitchell and the report to Mr. Dean really say?  What is Mr. Stans' "logical explanation" of the hundreds of thousands of dollars of money laundered in a bank in Mexico?  Were the secret fund books destroyed?  And if so, who destroyed them?>>

John Baker

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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