(There: I bet that title caught your attention.) My husband (silver-tongued devil that he is) says that when it comes to money laundering, I am like a truffling pig: I root around everywhere for it. And I must confess that he is probably right. Over recent days the news has been full of the story of the murder of Bristol schoolgirl Becky Watts, and I took very little interest until they started talking about her stepbrother’s girlfriend being charged with perverting the course of justice. Now, I wondered, is that another tack we could use against money launderers? People are often (rightly) outraged that those who work in the regulated sector and turn a blind eye to the laundering activities of their clients are rarely brought to justice, so maybe this is another route.
I’m no lawyer, so I did what any rational person would do to investigate the legislation, and I Googled it. Turns out that “perverting the course of justice” is quite serious here in the UK – in theory, you can get up to life in prison for serious witness intimidation, although the standard sentence seems to be about two to ten years. Enough to put a crimp in things, anyway. There are three ways you can pervert the course of justice: intimidating or threatening a witness or juror; intimidating or threatening a judge; or disposing of or fabricating evidence. It’s an active thing, in that a positive act is required: inaction is not sufficient to commit the offence. So turning to a money laundering scenario… If a client is laundering his little heart out and his account manager does nothing, that’s not PTCOJ. (It’s all sorts of other things, but it’s not PTCOJ.) But if the account manager turns his growly stare on a junior who is concerned enough to start asking questions about the dodgy client, and so intimidates that junior into saying nothing when the investigators come calling, well, perhaps that is. Or let’s say that the MLRO asks the account manager to beef up the due diligence on the client’s file, and the account manager doesn’t want to bother the client and so fills in some of the details himself, again, if it comes to an investigation, that could be considered fabricating evidence. Or – perhaps more likely – if the account manager deletes emails in which the client suggests that his real line of work is not helping widows and orphans, there we might have the disposal of evidence.
I wouldn’t muddy the waters by mentioning this in ordinary training, but I do wonder whether the very title of the offence – perversion is rarely a good thing – makes it more repulsive to people. An account manager considering his next move for a questionable client might be more reluctant to bend the rules if he were encouraged to think of it in these terms.