This is a slightly unusual blog post, because I want your advice. Well, it’s on behalf of someone else. I have a friend who used to be married to a money launderer. He – the ex – is still engaged in that line of work. They have two children, aged 18 and 20, who are unaware of their father’s work because (as my friend puts it) responsible divorced people “never tell bad things about the other parent, and so the kids have an image of a hard-working, money-earning dad living in Monaco and a lazy mum”. Galling enough, but now the ex is trying to lure his 20-year old son to Monaco to work as a carabinieri (palace guard). The lad was planning to study to be a teacher, but of course the sunny and glamorous alternative sounds tempting – although mum is not thrilled: “It’s not exactly my idea of a great career, to defend the prince of a tax paradise”.
So what my friend would like to know is this: how do you tell young people that a relative is involved in money laundering? Do you explain why it’s wrong? Or do you not tell them? What we’re talking about here is people who have not been charged with anything, let alone convicted and sentenced – but others in the family know what they’re up to. (Once law enforcement authorities are involved, the decision is pretty much made: the children of the family will find out anyway.) Is it just like any other crime – should we tell little Jimmy that his uncle is a cat burglar – or is it different because of the nature of the crime? After all, money laundering is rarely violent, and many feel that it is not a “real” crime – just a bit of cleverness with money. But is the tide of public opinion turning against financial criminals, with the recent crackdowns on corruption, the headlines about money laundering through property, and the 14-year sentence for Libor fraudster Tom Hayes?
I’m probably not best placed to give advice, as (a) I have no children, and (b) I am rather at the harsh end of the spectrum when it comes to how best to punish money launderers (and to me, losing the respect of his children sounds like a good starting point). And so I turn to you: any thoughts?