Following on from my post last week about common sense, I was interested to read about professional snooker player Stephen Lee pleading guilty to fraud on 9 June. It was a simple enough case (he sold one of his cues on eBay to Marco Fai Pak Shek, a fan in Hong Kong, and then didn’t send it and in fact carried on using it – he was ordered to repay Mr Shek’s £1,600 payment and fined £110) but what caught my eye was what is known in court as his “previous”. For this was not Mr Lee’s first brush with the law: last year he was found guilty of match-fixing in 2008 and 2009 and given a 12-year ban and ordered to pay £40,000 costs (which have now been increased to £75,000 thanks to a failed appeal). The World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association called it “the worst case of snooker corruption we’ve seen”.
Now, I am not a snooker fan, so I had never heard of Mr Lee or his match-fixing conviction – but presumably Mr Shek was familiar with Mr Lee, given that he was willing to pay quite bit of money for that cue. So did he not consider that a man who is prepared to commit “the worst case of snooker corruption” in his professional life might not be the most trustworthy of eBay sellers, and that it might not be a good idea to send money across the world to a person with a demonstrable history of dishonesty?
I once had an MLRO tell me that, during a review of a client’s file, they had uncovered a lie that he had told on opening his account. “But it’s all OK,” said the MLRO proudly. “It shows that our systems are working, and we contacted him and he’s sent the correct information now.” I was less comforted, as I tend to think that a client who lies to you once is likely to do it again. If you have experience of someone’s dishonesty, surely it colours everything they do and say from then on? And in many cases, I should imagine, it must make you reluctant to continue the relationship at all. Plus, don’t forget that pesky objective test: if a client is one day embroiled in a money laundering investigation, and enquiries come to your door, can you imagine yourself saying, “Well, yes, we knew he was a liar, but no, it didn’t rouse our suspicion about other things that he did.” If you must turn the other cheek, make sure that it is an armour-plated cheek with enhanced due diligence.