Once upon a time

Suffering with a cold this week, I rugged up on the sofa with a hot Ribena and the cat and listened to a recording I had made of a Radio 4 production of “The African Queen”, starring Toby Jones and Samantha Bond.  I can’t remember how long it had been since I listened to a story, but what a pleasure it was.  Stories are an essential part of our humanity; they give shared pleasure to a community, and – particularly before widespread printing and literacy – were how lessons and warnings and information were passed on.

We still use them today, of course, not least in AML training.  We don’t call them stories, but rather we talk of “case studies” and “worked examples”.  And they are on my mind this week because the Egmont Group – the association for the world’s FIUs – has just published a new set of them.  “The Best Egmont Case Award (BECA) Publication” contains 22 stories from FIUs as disparate as the FIS in Guernsey, the AMLU in Bahrain and the RAP in Finland, all packed with indicators, details and outcomes.  You see: right there we have the essential beginning, middle and end of any story.

So what makes a good story for AML training purposes?  I am constantly researching them, and the things I look out for are:

  • a possible, perhaps even probable, scenario – the more extreme stories (e.g. the theft of gazillions of dollars by ultra-corrupt PEPs) are fun, but more for light relief, as they seem almost incredible to most people
  • the involvement of the sector I am addressing – so if I’m training bank staff, we need some bank-based laundering, and for casino staff, laundering at the tables, etc.
  • a few comic details – for instance, corrupt PEP Frederick Chiluba wore stacked shoes, and Guernsey money launderer Paul Ludden spent lots of money on dancing girls, and
  • just desserts – a conviction for money laundering, or for AML failings.

When I first started out as an AML trainer, such stories were so rare that I printed them out and clutched them protectively to my bosom.  Now my story library is increased on a daily basis.  Are you sitting comfortably?  Then we’ll begin.

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