Lionheart or launderer?

Way back in the mists of time, I attended (yes, attended rather than presented) my first-ever anti-money laundering training session.  I was wide-eyed with wonder, bitten by the AML bug on my first exposure, and listened spellbound to all that was said.  “Actually, the first money launderers were the Crusaders,” said the speaker, and I dutifully noted it down.  I have even repeated this tidbit of information on a few occasions – although you’d be surprised how infrequently skirmishes over the Holy Land in the eleventh and twelfth centuries come up in conversation these days.

Recently I was trying to write an article about the early history of money laundering, and as I was about to commit to paper this slur against Richard the Lionheart and his cronies, I thought I had better check my facts.  And do you know, I couldn’t find any mention of it anywhere.  I am a pretty nifty Googler, adept at rooting out even cached references, but there was nothing.  (I never self-Google, by the way – not through any false modesty, but because I don’t need to have it confirmed that everything I do, I do it for you – my AML community.)  So if anyone out there is an expert on early Christian history and what they did with their money, please let me know – and meanwhile, I will stop calling the Crusaders money launderers.  Although I bet they did.

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3 Responses to Lionheart or launderer?

  1. It’s a good question, and I don’t have a particular concrete fact or source with which to substantiate the claim. However, I have heard it said before that the Crusaders used a variety of methods to fund their campaigns. It is possible, but speculative, that some of the noblemen could have used illegal methods to do so.

    A Dickson College journal article said of the Lionheart:

    Another of King Richard’s traits was a love of wealth. To fund the Crusade, he sold
    off positions, counties, sheriffdoms, castles, and huge amounts of land. This raised a
    massive amount of money and promises for more. Stubbs claims that “…if they [the
    promises of money] had been fulfilled, he would have been richer by far than all the
    Kings that were before him.” (Stubbs p 109) While the excuse for this was to raise
    money to fund the Crusade, Bingham says that Richard “…used England as a bank on
    which to draw and overdraw in order to finance his ambitious exploits abroad…”.
    (Bingham p 99) The action of raising money seems to have caused Richard great joy,
    and at one stage he is said to have cried: “I would sell London, if I could find a
    purchaser.” (Bingham p 99) This love of wealth, verging on the trait of greed, occurs
    numerous times in his life.

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