Did anyone else hear Jeffrey Robinson on “Today” on Radio 4 on Saturday 21 July? I was trimming the bacon ready for my sarnie (we know how to live at the weekend in our house) when I thought, “I recognise those New York vowels and tough views”. Talking about HSBC, of course, he was asked what should happen now. Prison, he said uncompromisingly. Laws were broken, so prison it must be. Fines, he said, are viewed as simply the cost of doing business, but “bankers in orange jumpsuits, shut in an eight-by-six cell and watched day and night by a tattooed guard called Marvin, will make other bankers take notice”. Readers, I swooned.
I must confess an interest. I met – yes, actually met! – Jeffrey Robinson in about 1995, when he was a keynote speaker at an AML conference in the south of France, and I was handing out the name badges, chasing lost luggage, sorting out sandwiches for coeliacs, pretending not to notice delegates sneaking into each other’s bedrooms, etc. (Organising conferences is just a joy.) Jeffrey, no, I can’t do it, Mr Robinson was – and I am sure still is – a super speaker, and I was won over by his uncompromising stance: money laundering is a crime, and those who do it, whatever their job title and no matter how elevated their social circle, are criminals and should be punished accordingly. Since then, I have devoured his books: “The Laundrymen”, “The Sink”, “The Merger”. Back in 1995 I was much shyer than I am now, and I didn’t dare approach the great man and declare my admiration, but if I am ever lucky enough to meet him again, he will not escape so lightly. I may well gush girlishly. Fair warning.