Nov 28 2012

Why Britain is still the world’s money laundering centre

Posted by: Nick Shaxson in: Thoughts

From Rowan Bosworth-Davies, a voice of authority on financial crime, commenting on the excellent offshore investigations by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, together with the Guardian and the BBC:

All in all, it was a very grubby tale of greed and as blatant a piece of criminal law-breaking as you could expect. In one scene, a corporate services provider proposed that he would invite a local bank officer to come to a meeting in his offices to meet the purported launderer, and complete the banking formalities. Easier than going to the bank, was how he put it.

What made it all so acutely depressing was that there was no evidence that HMRC had ever prosecuted any of the corporate services providers under their supervision, for any breaches of the Money laundering Regulations, or indeed for straight-forward money laundering itself.

And then some colourful but apt further commentary:

The real problem in all of this is that the Money Laundering Regulations have never been properly policed, and never effectively enforced. That is where the answer to money laundering interdiction lies, in the enforcement of the Regs, but why will no-one, absolutely fucking no-one, step up and take the lead on this?

Bosworth-Davies, a former detective with many years’ experience fighting financial crimes, notes that the UK’s Financial Services Authority (FSA)

“have consistently refused to accept their Parliamentary responsibilities to enforce the Money Laundering law within the financial sector. HMRC cover another sector, and other agencies have input, but absolutely nothing gets done, and eventually the industry realises that there is no point bothering with a compliance regime because no-one enforces it.

I have been forced to come to the conclusion that Government does not really want the AML [Anti Money Laundering] laws to be enforced – they cannot do so, because they spend such little time and effort insisting on enforcement. . . . in practice, just keeping their noses out of the issue, for fear that too much regulation and compliance with international laws might mean putting off some of the slew of dirty money that is constantly flowing around the world looking for a safe haven, from coming to the UK.”

For anyone who has even just dipped into Treasure Islands, they will see how true this is. This is the business model.

“we might as well fill our coffers with the profits from the drug trade and other people’s tax evasion, and as long as we pay lip-service to the FATF guidelines, and make sure that we don’t get put on some nasty blacklist (which we won’t because we make sure we are well-represented at FATF meetings), and as long as we keep pointing the finger of non-compliance at Iran or Pakistan or wherever, we will get away with it.”

So very unpleasantly true. And there is much more in there, well worth reading.

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