Over the past few nights I’ve been watching a television mini-series called “The Kennedys”. There was a hoo-hah before it was broadcast in America, with doubts expressed about its historical accuracy, and indeed it was shown first in Canada – where perhaps there is more appetite for a bit of mud-slinging at the quasi-Royal Family of the USA. I was glad to see that they show JFK’s drug addiction, and allude to his, well, rampant sexual appetites, but disappointed – although not surprised – to see no reference at all to the original source of the Kennedy wealth.
To be clear, I am not saying that the Kennedy money came from crime. Papa Joe was certainly a smart operator, and sailed pretty close to the wind on almost every occasion, but the evidence of actual criminality is circumstantial. (In 1973 mob boss Frank Costello said that he and Kennedy had been bootlegging partners, while other underworld figures have also claimed that Joe was in cahoots with them.) It may just be that he was a past master at taking advantage of a situation.
However, the Kennedy situation does raise a troubling question: is it actually possible to launder money? (It sticks in my craw to ask it, but there you go.) Can the proceeds of a crime filter through so many generations and so much legitimate activity that eventually they are, to all intents and purposes, clean money?