Earlier this week, I talked about the National Crime Agency’s “National Strategic Assessment of Serious and Organised Crime 2015” – and in particular about its take on high-end money laundering and professional enablers. But in case you’re feeling all complacent about the cash end of things (unless you’re Greek, of course), I should point out that the same assessment also dedicates quite a bit of space to cash-based money laundering. I will admit that I had thought that cash was becoming less of a problem; as fewer day-to-day transactions are conducted in cash, with so many of us using contactless payment cards and other cash-eliminating techniques such as season tickets, I had thought that cash would become terribly old-fashioned (and therefore notable when used). But it seems that, for the UK criminal at least, this day is still some way off.
Among the areas of concern highlighted by the NCA assessment are cash smuggling (especially of the euro, “due to its availability in low-bulk, high-denomination notes, and because it can be concealed within the European monetary system with ease”) and the use of casinos: “Gambling proceeds can provide money launderers with a credible explanation for a source of wealth. Casinos can operate 24 hours per day, with high volumes of large transactions taking place in short timescales.” (In case you’re now wondering how it works, the NCA explains that “a number of cases show large sums of criminal proceeds being split into smaller amounts, exchanged into casino chips, gambled at up to a 10% loss and then cashed out”.) Also of interest are money service businesses – bureaux de change and wire transfer businesses: “The NCA assesses that at least £1.5 billion of UK criminal proceeds go through MSB remittances each year, with the actual figure likely to be significantly higher.” And we have a new phrase to bandy about: international controllers. Whether they are round and jolly like the gentleman overseeing Thomas and his friends remains to be seen, but what we do know is that these controllers “are relied upon by many organised crime groups to arrange the collection and delivery of criminal street cash in return for a commission… [They] orchestrate the movement of many millions of pounds across the world, and their loose networks give them the resilience to absorb losses from law enforcement intervention”. So that mild-mannered chap who likes a flutter at the tables and sends cash to his friends around the world may in fact be an international controller – and all to service the cash end of money laundering.