Russia's reverse money launderingEssentially, obnal is a way for a business to take a portion of cash off the books. The shadow economy’s demand for obnal is likely tens of billions of dollars a year—driven by the incentive to avoid high taxes on business operations and profits, and the need to pay bribes and kickbacks. Maxim Osadchiy, the head of the analytical department at Moscow’s C.F.B. bank, explained the underlying logic of obnal: “Normally, money laundering is about making dirty money clean. But this market, you could say, takes clean money and makes it dirty.” The basic idea is that a firm, operating officially and legally, purchases some service—it could be consulting advice, or roof cleaning—from a company that exists only on paper and doesn’t, in fact, deliver anything. The firm transfers money to a bank, ostensibly to process the transaction for this service, and the money returns as obnal, minus a fee.