Illicit Financial Flows

Illicit financial flows (IFFs) drain resources from development not only when they leave a country (outflows), but also when they enter a country (inflows), they can have detrimental impact by fuelling money laundering and corruption thus undermining the rule of law and the stability of markets.

UNCTAD and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) as custodians of SDG indicator 16.4.1, “total value of inward and outward IFFs”, collaborate with United Nations Regional Commissions and other experts within the Task Force on the Statistical Measurement of IFFs. As a result, UNCTAD and UNODC published a Conceptual Framework for the Statistical Measurement of Illicit Financial Flows endorsed by the United Nations Statistical Commission (UNSC) in March 2022.

The Conceptual Framework provides the first ever UN wide definition of IFFs for statistical purposes: Financial flows that are illicit in origin, transfer or use, that reflect an exchange of value and that cross country borders.

In addition, in May 2021, UNCTAD finalised a draft of Methodological Guidelines to Measure Tax and Commercial IFFs for pilot testing, aimed at statistical and other national authorities with a mandate to collect and access relevant information.

The world needs comparable and reliable statistics on IFFs to shed light on the activities, sectors and channels most prone to illicit finance, pointing to where actions should be undertaken as a priority to curb these flows. First official estimates on IFFs are now available, covering some crime-related IFFs for the first member States.

UNCTAD, UNODC and UN Regional Commissions are addressing a growing need for global cooperation and strengthening of existing work avenues to tackle IFFs and the activities that underlie their occurrence in a global project and provide further support to member States.

Activities that may generate illicit financial flows

SDG pulse


An overview of our work on defining, estimating and disseminating statistics on illicit financial flows.


Open playlist


Pioneering and pilot countries measuring IFFs, by type of IFFs


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First official estimates on illicit financial flows

SDG pulse IFFs

SDG Pulse is UNCTAD’s annual statistical publication reporting on developments relating to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the SDGs. This section outlines the progress by UNCTAD and UNODC as custodians of SDG indicator 16.4.1 on illicit financial flows, together with partners, on conceptual development and measurement of illicit financial flows, and calls for scaling up of measurement efforts and policy formulation.

More on measuring IFFs