Back in November 2012, the campaigning organisation Action Fraud garnered some excellent headlines for its research by revealing that the people most likely to fall for investment scams are over-confident men aged between 36 and 55. Although there are still the heart-rending stories of ruthless criminals targeting vulnerable elderly people (as in this recent story, when police had to threaten to arrest a retired Yorkshire couple for money laundering in order to prevent them sending yet more money to fraudsters), it was salutary to learn that even those whom we imagine might be best equipped to assess risk can be misled.
And then we have today’s top news story: the crackdown leading to 110 arrests (including twenty in the UK) of those running boiler-room frauds in the UK and Spain. Apparently “there are 850 confirmed victims of the gangs in the UK, but the real figure is likely to be in the ‘multi-thousands'”. As is often the sad case, many of those victims will never come forward, too ashamed to admit to the police, their families or perhaps even themselves that they have been conned. Operation Rico, as it has been named, is already bearing fruit: the BBC report shows pictures of luxury cars being towed away from the homes of those arrested.
From our AML perspective, it is interesting (although not surprising) to read that “each boiler room network is believed to have an accountant, money launderer and lawyer” as well as legions of sales staff. We have seen some success in pursuing these corrupt enablers before: in April 2012 Michael McInerney was jailed for 4½ years for laundering the £28 million proceeds of a syndicate of boiler-rooms. (McInerney opened bank accounts for companies that were allegedly to be used for property management, and transferred criminal proceeds into those accounts. He also registered companies in the British Virgin Islands, Anguilla and Gibraltar, opened accounts for them in Jersey and Malta, moved money to those accounts, and then distributed it to accounts in Hong Kong, Dubai, Canada, Lithuania, Spain, Switzerland, Slovakia and Austria.) Here’s hoping that financial investigators get them this time too. And you middle-aged men out there: stay safe.