Dear reader, I am only just recovering. I opened my post this morning and found a glossy brochure and covering letter: “Dear Ms Grossey, Because you are such a good Hotel Chocolat customer [I should cocoa] I am writing to you about a very exciting opportunity for both of us. I am inviting you to get involved with our innovative Chocolate Bond.” Visions of Sean Connery dipped in 80% dark chocolate played havoc with my concentration. But no, not that sort of Bond – a financial bond. In short, Hotel Chocolat is offering me the chance to invest up to £50,000 over three years with them, and receive £58 per year per £1,000 – in chocolate! Seriously: my return would be in chocolate.
I tore open the glossy brochure in a fever of chocolatey questions – would my bank be happy to store bars of chocolate? would the electricity company take them in payment? And one I hadn’t thought of until I read the brochure: what if I die while holding a Chocolate Bond? (Well, it happened in “You Only Live Twice”, and twice in “Goldfinger”.) And then I spotted the paragraphs headed “Money Laundering”: “To ensure compliance with the Money Laundering Regulations 2007, the Company [Hotel Choc] or Neville Registrars Limited may, in our/their absolute discretion, require verification of your identity.” May? Only may? As the application has to be accompanied by a cheque made payable to “Neville Registrars Limited re: Clients Account”, and we all know how money launderers salivate over a client account, I should think they would be daft to accept any payment without proof of ID. And as you can cash in your investment any time after three years and get (I assume) a cheque from Hotel Choc, it is a laundering possibility – certainly for a criminal with a sweet tooth. Perhaps we should add “Documents covered in chocolatey fingerprints” to our list of red flags. In the spirit of the thing, I may send in my application etched on a giant bar of Dairy Milk, and my payment in chocolate coins.