Log In | Subscribe | |

World Money Laundering Report

As China continues is increasingly effective "Operation Fox Hunt" against corrupt officials who have left China with their spoils, or sent their money abroad in the hope of hiding it, there is growing co-operation between Chinese authorities and those in the countries where people and/or assets are located. Australia is one country that has been helping. But a thorny old question remains.

For much of the past 25 years, Nigel Morris-Cotterill has argued that any corporate structure that goes is more than three layers deep should be regarded as prima facie suspicious unless a good commercial and legal reason can be established. Incredible India, which is turning from a sink hole for dirty money into a leader in developing structures and policies to combat financial crime has just announced that Indian groups will not be permitted to have more than two layers of subsidiaries. That's going to cause major consternation amongst Indian corporates which use complex structures to minimise tax revenues and to avoid exchange control measures, as well as to hide proceeds of fraud and other offences.

The grand-daddy of the current crop of electronic currencies is, of course, Bitcoin. In recent months, its value has appreciated exponentially until it reached more than 5,000 dollars. But it's just the most famous so-called "cryptocurrency" and now the technology is "in the wild," anyone with the necessary, apparently not very advanced, IT skills can make one. China says "enough is enough" and is taking steps to more or less outlaw cryptocurrencies or, at least, to make their use difficult. China has explained its reasoning - and it makes a huge amount of sense. The questions are whether the horse has already bolted, can access to cryptocurrencies outside China be banned and just how much use is it really for money laundering, a main plank of the Chinese objection.

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.

Pages

 


 

Click the Ad: the link opens in a new page

hahagotcha