This paper examines the global anti-money laundering regime, assesses its purpose and draws some conclusions with regards to its effectiveness as a tool for targeting transnational financial crime. The paper shows that targeting money laundering is presented as a means of strengthening the integrity of the financial system and tackling organised crime through a global approach, and contrasts official policies with actual (and potential) results in practice. The paper explains that at the core of the approach lies the tension of reconciling the cost of dealing with money laundering (to be borne primarily by the private sector) and the benefits of containing financial crime, which are, at best, difficult to determine. The paper analyses the relative input of (and interaction between) the various actors in the emerging anti-money laundering regime: specialised organisations, international financial institutions, law enforcement agencies, large, specialised and offshore financial centres and the private sector. It concludes that there is little evidence that the current regime leads to a systematic approach in addressing organised crime and argues that a similarly cosmetic exercise is evident in the inclusion of anti-terrorist financing measures in the anti-money laundering regime. Instead, the paper shows that regulation in the emerging anti-money laundering regime mostly serves (a) to address the need for ‘public’ action with respect to other types of public policy goals, (b) to relieve competitive pressures from specialised and offshore financial centres and (c) to produce increasingly sophisticated marketing techniques in private financial institutions.