Top tip: Today is Valentine’s Day. If you have forgotten, you still have time to buy flowers, chocs and steaks on the way home. You can thank me later.
On the theme of love, I have been following – as a dog follows a nasty but irresistible smell – the trial of Vicky Price. This is the ex-wife of Chris Huhne, who – once he had left her for another woman – said that he forced her to take speeding penalty points that he had earned. It’s all most unpleasant, this public washing of marital laundry, but it is a handy example of why it is so important for us to look not only at PEPs, but also at their family and close associates.
When all is going well for the corrupt PEP (which is the variety that all of our controls are designed to spot), his family and friends provide all sorts of laundering opportunities. [I know that PEPs can be female too, but I hate all of that “his/her” and “s/he” writing.] He can open accounts in their names and move money into them – still under his control, of course. He can appoint them to various juicy government jobs, so that they can siphon off more money. He can set up trusts supposedly to benefit them, and create companies that are nominally run and financed by them. And by keeping track of such connections, and questioning where their money has come from, we stand a better chance of seeing what is really going on with the PEP and the proceeds of his corruption.
And when things go wrong for the poor old PEP, we may get the “Pryce effect”: a previously loyal sidekick may step forward and say, “Actually, this is what was really going on – and here’s some handy evidence too.” You’d think Mr Huhne, being an Oxford man, might have read a bit of Congreve.