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World Money Laundering Report

Habib Bank of Pakistan has one office in the USA and it's in New York where the Department of Financial Services has determined that there are "serious and persistent" failings in its counter-money laundering policies and procedures. The DFS said that it plans to fine the bank an amount of "up to USD630 million" and the bank's response is to say that it will close its US operations. It will, the bank said, not consent and will challenge the proposed fine in the US Courts. Fighting talk. But as of yesterday, something changed. If nothing else, the penalty, when levied, did not come close to that headline figure - and the bank did consent. But what also changed was that it became more widely known that the bank had a poor history.

A purported mailing list broker is marketing a list of users of money laundering, etc. risk management software. There are clear security implications for officers in sensitive functions, if the list is what it claims to be and money laundering risk officers, etc. should therefore be aware that information relating to them and their employers and suppliers is being indiscriminately touted for sale.

Adriana Pinnisi of California has been charged with theft from her employer by using her corporate credit card. The case raises a number of fascinating money laundering related issues.

When the Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CBA) story first appeared, I instructed World Money Laundering Report that we should not become involved in what would inevitably become a frenzy of speculation and ill-informed comment as consultants (of which I am, obviously, one) and media outlets vied to benefit their own profile, and to get website visits, while the story was hot. I wrote what amounted to a placeholder article .

Often, one is tempted to shake one's head in amazement when a regulator or enforcement agency is proud that it's done something that has been obvious for, well, pretty much for ever, in money laundering terms. If one were to shake one's head with appropriate force at FinCEN's boast that it is to target shell companies that have been used to purchase expensive properties in seven expensive areas, there's a risk it would topple free of one's shoulders. Surely the point is not the FinCEN has just noticed, but that it's just noticed that banks, lawyers and estate agents have not been making reports. Shades of Commonwealth Bank, maybe?

The UK's Serious Fraud Office secured a conviction against Ponzi scheme operator David Gerald Dixon in November last year. In addition to a jail sentence, he was ordered to surrender GBP275,000 in respect of proceeds of his crime. The deadline for payment has passed and the Order has not been satisfied.

The US Department of Justice has charged four men from a district of California known as "the Inland Empire" with a range of tax offences that, it is alleged, generated substantial revenue by making false tax claims in the names of innocent individuals. It's time governments started doing effective KYC.

The former deputy treasurer for the City of Compton, California, has pleaded guilty to federal charges stemming from his theft of more than USD3.7 million of city funds. His wife has pleaded guilty to money laundering.

Some years ago, payment system provider SWIFT launched KYC Registry, a membership-scheme which provided data which the company gathered about financial institutions and which provided at least comfort to those engaged in correspondent banking. The product was in competition with services from Banker's Almanac, now owned by software house Accuity. Swift says that the way its information is sourced has changed and now, within strict confines, the platform is regarded as "community driven." SWIFT say this means that the data should be open to the community. What, exactly, does that mean?

Scenario: a prospective customer walks into your office, shakes hands with you and sits down. You look at his clothes, his bag, even his shoes. You check his haircut, his facial hair, if he has any. You even sniff to see if he smells and, if so, of what. You check out his shoes. You listen to his voice, the accent, inflection, the tone. You analyse the skin on his fingers and palm when you shake hands. You look at his fingernails and, even the way that he sits. And you form a view. But did you know that, subconsciously, there is something else that has influenced you, from the moment you looked at him when he walked through the door? New research says there was.

Reports that Australian banks are going to co-operate on KYC information are welcome but fall far short of the ideal. Also, conceptually, it's been tried before, and failed. We know: we covered one such attempt in WMLR Vol 5 No 3 in November 2003.

When the most powerful anti-corruption body in a country as big and as corrupt as India tells banks to shape up and go back on dodgy deals to ensure recovery, the results may turn out to be shocking.

In Mumbai, a special money laundering court is the venue for the laying of charges against Vijay Mallya and 8 co-defendants. Mallya is described in Indian media as a "fugitive" because he left India for the UK where he lives in considerable luxury although he had divested himself of many assets including, reports suggest, at least some of his interest in the Force India Formula One team. The Court seems to agree..

The appeal in Abdul Ghani bin Tahir -v- the Public Prosecutor of Singapore resulted in the upholding of the conviction but a reduction of 50% in the sentence. The case draws together principles that have been developed in a number of jurisdictions and should be regarded as a leading case across all jurisdictions. Even more interesting, it involves a chartered accountant and glaring failures in any form of financial crime risk management system.

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