About a century ago, when I first started out in AML, I was introduced to the work of John Walker. He is an Australian criminologist with a particular interest in money laundering, and one of his most interesting (and for me, useful) projects has been his tracking of the flows of criminal money around the world – where criminal money is generated, and where it goes to be laundered. Marvellous stuff – here’s a recent report. Over the years, John and I have almost met on several occasions, at various AML gatherings, but something always goes wrong and so he remains an e-colleague, albeit a much-valued one.
This morning (evening for him, sitting with a tinny by his barbie in Oz) he emailed me an article that appeared a couple of days ago in his local paper, the Canberra Times – it’s by a Senior Fellow at the Aussie Institute of Public Affairs, and is entitled (wait for it – and you thought I liked to make AML sound exciting) “Ravenous monsters of the deep have woken“. I won’t spoil your own reading, but in short the author suggests that “the persecution of tax havens by the OECD and its members represents only one link in a chain of efforts by governments to discourage individuals and companies from availing themselves of the full benefits of tax competition”. Why yes, it’s our old friend the tax-grab: any attempt by governments to control financial flows must be a cynical effort to bleed their citizens dry.
Thankfully we have the clear-thinking John to hand to make the case for AML, and his response has now appeared in the Canberra Times. You can read it here – it’s about six letters down, entitled “Secret out, money laundering is indefensibly dirty business“. It’s the usual situation, of course: in theory, everyone supports the idea of lower tax – until you point out that it means less schooling, fewer hospitals, bad transport, etc. In the same way, Ms Novak’s “fiscal exploitation” sounds bad – who wants that? – until you realise that it simply means a jurisdiction trying to get enough money to provide a good standard of living for its people.