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Illustration: Sam Jayne / Axios

Intel today released intelligent software that targets money-laundering — the methods that corrupt autocrats, narcotics traffickers, and sanctions-busters use to legitimize their illicit cash.

Why it matters: There's a broad commercial struggle going on between Intel and chip rivals like Nvidia, with which it is in a death grip for the rich future of enabling artificial intelligence. With the announcement, Intel is putting points on the board, showing off know-how in the serious and exotic space of tracking illicit cash, which is harder to detect amid the sea of data coursing through the global financial system.

In 2016, between $800 billion and $2 trillion in illicit cash, equivalent to 2%-5% of global GDP, was laundered in various ways, according to the United Nations. In just one series of transactions, western banks including Citi, Barclays and Deutsche Bank were conduits for $22 billion illicitly shipped out of Russia from 2011 to 2014, according to an investigation by the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project and Russia's Novaya Gazeta.

How it's usually investigated: Gayle Sheppard, vice president of the Saffron AI Group, an artificial intelligence subsidiary that Intel acquired two years ago, tells Axios that standard software models attempt to attack these industrial-scale criminal operations by studying financial transactions. But ferreting through the data can take weeks or months, she said.

What AI can offer: Intel is using a form of AI known as "associative memory," which Sheppard said incorporates transactions and suggestive personality behaviors, meaning the people and organizations that carry out the money laundering.

How it works: The software rapidly looks for hidden patterns in reams of emails, texts and other bank and insurance data that can indicate criminal behavior. Then it flags any anomalous data for human investigators, who check whether in fact money laundering is going on. Sheppard said this process can be carried out "in real-time."

Bottom line: The market for such software is banks and insurance firms that worry of reputational damage and fines should they be caught allowing money laundering. In January, for instance, Deutsche Bank was fined $630 million by the United States in a $10 billion money laundering case involving Russia.

Go deeper

Updated 20 mins ago - Sports

The Olympic events to watch today

Stefanie Dolson of the U.S. celebrates victory in the 3x3 Basketball competition on July 28, 2021 in Tokyo. Photo: Christian Petersen/Getty Images

5 events to watch today...
  • 🤸‍♀️ Men’s gymnastics: Team USA’s Sam Mikulak and Brody Malone compete in the individual all-around final. Coverage starts at 6:15 a.m. on Peacock (watch the replay at 8 p.m. ET on NBC)
  • 🏀 3x3 Basketball: The women’s gold medal game between the U.S. and Russia starts at 8:55 a.m. ET on USA Network. Russia and Latvia will play in the men’s final at 9:25 a.m. ET.
  • 🏌️ Men’s golf: Round one tees off at 6:30 p.m. ET on the Golf Channel or stream on nbcolympics.com.
  • 🏊 Swimming: Men’s 800m freestyle, 200m breaststroke and 100m freestyle finals and women’s 200m butterfly final. Coverage starts at 9:30 p.m. on NBC.

National parks "drowning in tourists"

Expand chart
Data: National Park Service; note: Gateway National Recreation Area is excluded due to missing data in 2021. Chart: Connor Rothschild/Axios

National Parks across the U.S. are overflowing with a post-pandemic crush of tourists, leading to increased issues with congestion, traffic jams, user experience, strain on staff and increased damage to the parks.

Why it matters: Some are seeing such a record number they're being forced to limit, and even close, access to certain areas to avoid the danger of eroding the land. The result, ultimately, could change the way Americans interact with the parks going forward.

Why Mark Zuckerberg is going meta

Photo illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios. Photo: Michaela Handrek-Rehle/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Facebook's "next chapter," Mark Zuckerberg says, is to be prime builder of "the metaverse" — an open, broadly distributed, 3D dimension online where, he says, we will all conduct much of our work and personal lives.

The big picture: Zuckerberg admits Facebook will only be one of many companies building this next-generation model of today's internet — but he also intends Facebook to lead the pack.