My company’s name (which started as a joke and sort of stuck) is Thinking about Crime. About once a week I am asked which crimes I am thinking about, and I always answer “Financial crime – mainly money laundering”. But it is interesting to ponder quite what we mean by “financial” crime.
The majority of crimes are, in fact, financial – in that they are committed to make money for the criminal. Burglars don’t steal in order to decorate their homes – they steal in order to sell the items to make money – but we don’t call burglary a financial crime. So financial crime isn’t just any crime that generates money. I think perhaps the distinguishing feature of financial crime is the misapplication of the money itself. So tax evasion is a financial crime, even though the money involved is not itself criminally derived: someone can earn their money perfectly legitimately, and it is only when they apply that money to their own Caribbean holiday rather than to the Exchequer that it becomes a financial crime. The same applies to terrorist financing, and to bribery and extortion and corruption: the money itself is clean, but its application is dirty.
Which leads us rather inconveniently to money laundering – which I have always considered the grand-daddy of financial crimes, the crime that enables all other crimes to happen. But using my definition, it would not be a financial crime – as the money involved is by definition already dirty. So perhaps we have three categories of crime: non-financial, financial, and money laundering.