I stayed with a friend this weekend, and her new chap asked me what I do for a living. I gave the usual potted explanation: I provide anti-money laundering training and advice, so I help institutions to guard against criminal money. But he, being something of a thinker, did not let it go at that. “Do they want that, the institutions?” he asked. “Or is it just because they are required to?” Gulp. Help self to large piece of cake for fortification. But he did raise a good point.
I’m not naive enough to think that banks, law firms, casinos and the rest would spend as much on AML as they do at the moment if the AML legislation were suddenly repealed. Even with it on the statute books, AML is a hard sell. But what really got me thinking was: should we actually have AML legislation at all? (By AML legislation, I don’t mean the primary offences – that’s ML legislation. AML is regulations and the like, geared to preventing and forestalling.) After all, we don’t have anti-embezzlement regulations, requiring firms to put in place anti-embezzlement procedures and training, even though the general opinion is that embezzlement is a bit naughty. But hold on a sec: I’m talking myself round here. Rather than having anti-embezzlement procedures, and anti-tax-evasion procedures and so on, wouldn’t it be simpler to require institutions to put in place procedures to spot and report the proceeds of any crime? It’s a catch-all, really: if it’s illegal, you can’t move the proceeds. What a marvellous idea! AML, QED. I only wish I’d thought of it over the chocolate cake.