Ms Wright, who was speaking to the Cambridge International Symposium on Organised Crime, said: "We are not talking of petty crime; we are talking of major criminals who have no explanation for their wealth, who take personal risk in executing the crime and against whom it is impossible to obtain convictions without using methods unacceptable in a democratic society." She added: "I would like to see money launderers suffer financial loss at least to the same amount of the proceeds of crime that they have laundered as well as any other penalties which may be inflicted by the criminal court."
She also called for Bureaux de Change, which are an important conduit for laundering, to be brought under the umbrella of the Financial Services Authority.
The FSA is responsible for monitoring the effectiveness of financial institutions' internal money-laundering controls.
The role of the City in laundering has been highlighted by investigations in the US into the alleged laundering of up to $10bn (pounds 6bn) of Russian mafia money through the Bank of New York's London and New York offices.
Jack Straw, the Home Secretary, is reviewing responses to a consultation paper on money laundering. The paper raised the possibility of establishing a Confiscation Agency with powers to seize the proceeds of criminal activity.