In a recent TV documentary about fraudsters and their laundering techniques, a fraud squad detective is seen beaming with joy as he searches a suspect’s bedroom and finds a box containing a brand-new gold Rolex watch, complete with a receipt for £13,000: “It just goes to show the arrogance of these fraudsters. They think they’ve got away with it. His greed in purchasing the Rolex is ultimately going to be his downfall because that’s direct evidence linking him to the offence. On this occasion I’m glad he bought the Rolex.” It seems that although money laundering is all about concealing assets, or at least making them look like the sort of assets to which you are legitimately entitled, some people just cannot resist the lure of bling. And fancy watches are particularly popular – perhaps because they are portable, or the acceptable form of jewellery for men, or easy to show off to your friends.
On the other hand (good-value watch pun there: you wear watches near your hands, and watches have hands), perhaps we can use criminals’ love of ostentation against them. If we can learn which are the favoured timepieces of the illegally-wealthy, we can look out for them on the wrists of our clients. The most expensive new watch currently offered by Rolex is the GMT 116769TBR – you can see a picture here. With a white gold bracelet and over two thousand diamonds, it is not what you might call understated – and will set you back just under half a million dollars. For about half that price, you can get a special edition Platium Pearlmaster 18956 – here’s the photo. Perhaps asking if the customer has the time, and then having a peek at their watch, should be part of take-on interviews. One handy crib-sheet could be the lot details released by the US government ahead of the auction in July 2011 of the watch collection of convicted Ponzi fraudster Scott Rothstein – who is now serving some serious time (see, another watch pun).