About AITI

About the Anti-Illicit Trade Institute (AITI)
Terrorism, Transnational Crime and Corruption Center (TraCCC)

A Global Hub for Research and Training to Fight a Multi-Trillion Dollar Illegal Economy

Today’s global illicit markets generate trillions of U.S. dollars every year for transnational criminal organizations, complicit corrupt facilitators, and other threat networks involved in the trafficking of narcotics, arms, and people; fake medicines; counterfeit and pirated goods; illegal tobacco and alcohol; illegally-harvested timber, wildlife, and fish; pillaged oil, diamonds, gold, natural resources and precious minerals; stolen antiquities; and other contraband or illicit commodities. They are sold on our main streets, social media, online marketplaces, and the dark web.


The AITI is at the forefront of today’s globalized and rapidly changing world and advances academic excellence through pioneering research, interactive educational approaches, and a best-in-class training curriculum on cross-border governance and market security threats.

The AITI brings together international partners from diverse communities to focus on the importance of global illicit trade, while raising awareness of the harms and effects of illicit trade on government institutions, economies, markets, industries, and consumers to:

  • promote high-quality educational programs through substantive and pragmatic instruction and in-depth training for students, government officials, diplomats, business executives, lawyers, finance professionals, and civil society leaders;
  • engage in cutting-edge research and create an AITI Knowledge Hub;
  • foster comprehensive dialogues, exchanges, and understanding on the array of harms caused by illicit trade and accompanying money laundering;
  • support international conferences and workshops; and
  • undertake outreach via dynamic public-private partnerships.

Started in 2020, the AITI includes a core of anti-illicit trade executive-tailored courses and online instruction related to:

  • developing effective strategies for fighting illicit markets;
  • investigating and prosecuting illicit trade (the importance of intelligence- and information-sharing across borders);
  • targeting webs of corruption and criminality by following the money and “value” (money laundering/trade-based money laundering);
  • tackling cybercrime and dismantling online markets related to Intellectual Property (IP) crime including counterfeit and pirated goods; and other important anti-crime and criminal justice areas.

In Spring 2021, AITI offered an Executive Certificate Program, “Understanding AML/TBML to Fight Kleptocracy, Illicit Trade, and Financial Crime.” This online course provided information on understanding how money laundering works, current issues, trends, and methodologies used by today’s bad actors – once having accumulated money from an array of illicit activities – who hide, disguise, and launder so that authorities cannot determine where the dirty money comes from. Students learned practical insights on what works and what does not by examining effective international standards such as those by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), AML measures, best practices, and case studies in detecting and preventing the laundering of dirty money. This course also focused on trade-based money laundering (TBML), underground financial systems, China as a growing money laundering threat, and other illicit finance processes, vehicles, and methods that enable bad actors to disguise and clean their dirty money.

The AITI is spearheaded by Louise I. Shelley, the Omer L. and Nancy Hirst Endowed Chair and Professor at George Mason University; and David M. Luna, a former senior U.S. diplomat and national security official, chair of the Business at OECD Anti-Illicit Trade Expert Group, Member of the B20/G20 Integrity and Compliance Task Force, and former vice-chair of the World Economic Forum Global Agenda Council’s Illicit Trade and Organized Crime group.

You may also be interested in the Schar School’s Graduate Certificate in Illicit Trade Analysis. The Certificate in Illicit Trade Analysis at George Mason University’s Schar School of Policy and Government operates at the intersection of social science, national security, international trade, and law enforcement. It draws on the expertise of the Schar School’s Terrorism, Transnational Crime and Corruption Center (TraCCC) and its new Anti-Illicit Trade Institute (AITI). The graduate certificate program supports professional credentials for individuals working in government, the private sector, the legal community, inter-governmental organizations, think tanks, journalism, and non-profit organizations.

AITI/TraCCC/GMU has an memorandum of understanding (MOU) with University of Peace in Costa Rica on collaborative efforts, institutional exchanges, and joint research.

AITI offers paid research positions for Schar students in illicit trade.  Please contact traccc@gmu.edu indicating what your anti-illicit trade interests are and the background you have in the field.

Read about AITI and TraCCC “In the News.”