The black art of sentencing

For various reasons too complicated to explain – oh, go on then, I’m researching material for a new workshop for MLROs – I have been reading about the case of Roger Taylor.  In essence, this gentleman was a director of four companies in Guernsey which laundered the proceeds of a Ponzi fraud operated by a man called Michael Summers, and in January 2011 Mr Taylor was sent to prison for 2½ years.  I’ll readily admit that I don’t have any first-hand knowledge of the case – either the laundering or the trial – but it has made me think about sentencing.

The main money laundering offences in most jurisdictions – and this includes Guernsey – carry a maximum prison sentence of fourteen years, which seems to me to be a gruesome length of time and therefore a tip-top deterrent.  However, it appears that money launderers outside the US are rarely given the full stretch, and I can’t understand why.  I am a magistrate myself, so I do know about entry-level sentencing and mitigation and aggravation.  But taking as my source the account of Taylor’s appeal against his conviction as recorded on the Guernsey Legal Resources website, I can’t find much that would steer me away from the suggested sentence.   According to this:

  • Taylor is a man with “significant experience of the insurance industry”
  • Taylor was interviewed by the UK’s Serious Fraud Office, who were looking into the Ponzi fraud, and “the meeting ended with the officers telling him that Summers was being investigated for serious criminal offences, advising him in clear terms not to further Summers’ interests in the future in any way lest, unwittingly, he should become involved in the fraud. They advised him that in their view Summers was a crook.”
  • Taylor made a statement to the Guernsey Police, who then sent him a letter stating: “May I repeat the advice provided to you following your interview in that as these funds are deemed to be the proceeds of crime and to avoid any allegations of money laundering on your part, you must not make any attempt to move them to other accounts or pay them away to a third party.”

So he moved the money through a Jersey bank account.  Neck. His. In it up to.  At the appeal, Judge Russell Finch told Taylor: “This is not a case of naivety but of culpability.  Rather than being a weak man, you were a greedy one….  You were, at the very best, shutting your eyes to the blindingly obvious.”  The judge also commented that at the original trial, the Jurats had found the evidence not only compelling but overwhelming, and that their guilty verdict had been unanimous.  Aggravation a-go-go.  Apparently Taylor’s mature age was offered as mitigation – although didn’t your mum always say that at your age you ought to know better?  So what brought the sentence down from a possible fourteen years to only two-and-a-half?  And given that Taylor served only half of this anyway, some might argue that fifteen months is not nearly the deterrent that fourteen years would be.

(And please don’t think I’m singling out the Guernsey system – we see this everywhere.  Even the delightful Terry Adams got only seven years.)

This entry was posted in Legislation, Money laundering and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to The black art of sentencing

  1. Graham Thomas says:

    Hi Susan
    Another interesting case and it does make you wonder what someone would actually have to do to merit something approaching the maximum sentence.
    None of us are perfect and we can all make mistakes. However, I’m fairly sure that, it I were to get a similar warning letter from the police, it isn’t the kind of thing I would forget about or conveniently ignore whilst carrying out future financiaal dealings !!
    Best wishes
    Graham

  2. As you say, Graham, we can all make a mistake, and of course things are always clearer with hindsight. But I put it to you, M’Lud, that warnings from the SFO and Guernsey Police constitute foresight! As you say, hard to imagine how much more blatant the laundering would need to be!
    Best wishes from Susan

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