The sins of the father

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?

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10 Responses to The sins of the father

  1. Claire says:

    Thanks Sue! It’s a real dilemma how hard I can bash their father, and still allow them to love him. I want my kids to contribute in a meaningful way on this earth. Monaco is for screwed up people 😉

  2. Let’s see if anyone comes up with any practical suggestions, Claire. Might it be time for an objective talk with your son, worded carefully so that you’re not bashing his dad but rather bashing money laundering. I know how strongly you feel, as you say, that people should contribute in a meaningful way, and don’t forget that your kids have had more of your influence than their dad’s since your divorce, so chances are that they are more like you in moral stance than they are like him. And as your son was keen on becoming a teacher, that surely demonstrates a social conscience that definitely comes from you rather than from the man in Monaco!
    Best wishes from Susan

  3. Guy says:

    My view would be to let him make his own mind up, he is 20.. If you typically tell kids or adult in this case that they can’t do something then more often than not, the attraction to do it is increased ten fold. Concentrate on making teaching a more appealing option, the desire to have him around in Blighty rather than Monaco.. If all else fails, I assume the money laundering is well documented, let them read about it for themselves, after all, open source is fair game!

    • Hello Guy, and welcome to the blog.
      You make an excellent point re carrot versus stick – young people (and older ones too!) can be contrary. And yes, perhaps leaving a few pointed printouts or links around might be useful.
      Best wishes from Susan

  4. DAWN TINDALL says:

    Although, like you Susan, I do not have children, I look at it from the son’s perspective. If I wanted to enter a respected and ethical profession such as teaching I would not want to jeopardise it unwittingly by associating with criminals or even committing a crime. As Guy said, let him make up his mind but do give him some information on what to beware of out there. You may not need to say what his father’s involvement is but just mention examples of what can go on in Monaco (or anywhere else for that matter.) He may well recognise from these examples the money laundering activities of his father. He may actually have had suspicions himself but no MLRO to discuss it with. Good luck.

  5. Ah, now that’s a interesting suggestion, Claire – it might be worth telling your son about the impact that involvement in money laundering could have on his entire life. For instance, students in the UK often fall for scams whereby they allow funds to move through their bank accounts – they’re naive, and don’t think through the implications. But with a criminal record for any crime involving dishonesty, they will find it almost impossible to get a loan or mortgage, and perhaps even a bank account and therefore any employment.
    And as Dawn says, your son – being a grown man now – might already have his own suspicions about his father, but feel too loyal to raise them with you.
    Thanks for your excellent ideas, Dawn.
    Best wishes from Susan

  6. David Maxwell says:

    Hi Sue
    I have seen the damage that can be caused in families by keeping secrets. Those who have been kept in the dark inevitably find out at some stage, and often feel hurt, angry and resentful, foolish, betrayed. I think it is usually best to be open about issues in a family. I appreciate this is very difficult in Claire’s case, and I respect her attempts not to bash her ex-husband, but I think it is in the best interests of her children for them to know. As Dawn says, if they unwittingly become involved in their father’s activities, it could have a huge impact on their lives. Ideally the father would take the responsibility of admitting his activities to his children, but that seems unlikely to happen. If I were Claire, I would risk her children’s anger, and even a period of damaged relationships and warn them what their father is involved in.

  7. Hi David
    This sounds very heartfelt. I can certainly sympathise about family secrets causing more trouble in the end – but with not having children, I always hesitate to advise others about parenting! I am sure Claire will be grateful to hear your views.
    Best wishes from Sue

  8. Claire says:

    Thank you for all your replies. First I want to say: Don’t assume young people know how to recognise money laundering activities. It’s not like he lives in a mafia environment where police raids and shootings happen. Monaco is posh… Monaco is an unreal world. And unless you have lived in such environment of filthy rich people, you cannot imagine how it can look everyday to you. Of course they have the advantage of living in the real world with me, and knowing how normal people live. Money laundering is a discreet business. With “respectable” people (that is: a respectable appearance). Also, don’t forget you do not want to know that someone you love is involved in criminal business. It’s not being stupid. It’s being naive (I was very naive), believing in the good of the people you care for. I do believe my kids have good intentions and would never knowingly want to become involved in this kind of business. The idea of his official business (tax consultant) never appealed to my kids neither. He has tried to get one of them take over his business. None of his 4 kids are interested (he sold his business but is still active in it). So I guess I might follow David’s advice. And risk my children’s anger. Hey, they are angry already anyway because of the acrimonious divorce we have. It’s just a stage I will have to get through. And yes, a criminal record is for life!
    About being naive: I really wish someone would have bothered to shake me up and open my eyes. Starting from the UK bank where I used to work when I met my ex, a client there: the manager told me I should not be dating this man. But never told me why. At another major bank, where the manager of the UK bank started working, thus he knew me personally, told me not to allow the transaction my ex did through my account. But never explained me why. I trusted my then husband… My ex had a very bad split up with a business partner, a UK lawyer – who was anything but clean himself (though in other matters)- told me I’d be bringing my ex oranges one day. Again, I saw that lawyer as the bad person, he could have sat me down and give me details. I called him after my divorce, and then he told me stories… After I left my ex, the stories started pouring in. Imagine sitting at a dinner table with a bunch of Swedish lawyers and EU officials, mentioning the name of a famous Swede that was a client whom we socialised with. Oh, he is the biggest crook in Sweden! So i guess I owe it to my kids, to start adult life with their eyes open.

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