In an occasional series, I’d like to introduce you to the most common questions that I am asked during anti-money laundering training. And one of those that crops up time after time is: “Just what exactly do you mean by ‘suspicion’?” When I first starting learning about AML myself (back when Demi Moore was really in her twenties), this subject was often approached through reference to pronouncements by judges. In 1969 one bewigged worthy described suspicion as “a state of conjecture or surmise where proof is lacking… but nonetheless built upon some foundation”, and then in 1984 another ventured that it was “a state of mind requiring a degree of satisfaction, not necessarily amounting to belief but at least extending beyond speculation”. Hmmmm. As you can imagine, this flummery goes down a treat with baby cashiers who have just been told that it’s five years in chokey for failing to report.
So I prefer to talk about a “spectrum of suspicion”, and encourage them to think about what is worrying them and try to place their level of concern on the spectrum. So we start with interest, then move on to unease, then concern, then suspicion (report here! alarms ringing!), then belief, and finally knowledge. Or whatever words work for them. Of course, it’s all further complicated by the personal nature of suspicion – what I find simply concerning you might find suspicious (although it’s unlikely, given my high levels of mistrust bred over years of exposure to scummy criminals).
Actually, what it comes down to is usually simpler than all this. When we say that we’re suspicious about something, what we generally mean is that it just doesn’t feel right. And if we’re honest with ourselves, we all know when we’ve reached that point.