Running scared

Over lunch yesterday, a friend of mine told me a story so bizarre that I have to share it with you.  But for reasons that will become obvious, I have to keep it all anonymous.  My friend’s sister lives in the north of England, and for her birthday was taken out for dinner to one of a chain of restaurants – we don’t have this chain down south, but apparently it’s well-known up there.  As she walked in through the door, she slipped on a puddle on the floor and basically did the splits, pulling something very painful in her groin, passing out, and hitting her head on a table as she went down, just for good measure.  Once out of hospital, she contacted the restaurant to ask for compensation, as she had to take time off her (self-employed) job and so was out of pocket.  There was no reply, so she went to the police, taking along two friends who had witnessed the splits and could give statements about the wet floor and so on.  But the police officer who interviewed her advised her to let it drop because (I’m getting there) the restaurant is infamous as a front for money laundering (he actually said the words “front for money laundering”), and the people running it are nasty.  In short, don’t rock the boat.

So what to make of this?  My friend’s sister did let it drop – if your police were too scared to get involved, and you lived locally, you’d probably do the same.  But what can be going on?  Best case scenario, it could be a sting operation, and the police don’t want their investigations to be disrupted or their targets spooked by civil actions for negligence and injury.  Or it could be that the police are genuinely scared.  Or it could be that the police are in cahoots with the criminals.  I know we have a few police readers of this blog, so what would be your take on this?

I’m obviously a bit concerned by it, as I do know the name of the town and the restaurant and indeed the police force – but it’s coming to me third-hand, so I’m SAR-uncertain.  (And that’s quite apart from the harrumphing outrage I feel at the laundering, and the slightly mollifying feeling of being right – I know that some people don’t quite believe me when I warn them about criminal money and cash-intensive businesses.)  Readers, over to you for comment and advice.

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7 Responses to Running scared

  1. erskinomics says:

    Any idea of how much of the ‘flow’ from such ‘cash intensive’ businesses stays inside the country and how much leaks to outside the country? At least arguably, this leakage to outside the country matters more for developing countries than for advanced countries.

  2. Robert James Long says:

    Well without knowing all the details (which your quite right to hold back) I shall make a few comments and observations.

    Most benign explanation first, its is possible the officer is neither corrupt or lazy just a bit too talkative. One of the most frustrating things for law enforcement officers is the gap (sometimes the chasm) between what we know (or think we know) and what we can prove! A intelligence case and a evidential case are not the same things (quite right too, we have higher standards for evidence) and it is all too often the case that we have the former (and its pretty conclusive) but not the later. Given this the officer may well “know” a place is a front but not be able to bring a successful case. Its frustrating as I say, but I quite like the judicial system we have here and I’d rather it was that way around than people got swifted away on a police officers nod.
    The police officer also may be a pessimist/realist and was just passing on what he thought was “plain talking good advice”. Hmm

    That said you might question why the police officer said that to the reporting member of the public. It could be that is indiscreet and if there is ongoing work then they may compromise it by being so direct.

    In a former life corruption of public officials and police officers in particular was a area I knew far too much about. I would not rule out the possibility, because that sort of thing happens all the time I am afraid (certainly more often than we would like) but I would move it down the possibilities in this instance because I don’t think, if the officer is in cahoots with our ne’r-do-wells, that they would go about putting the member of the public off in a very different way. There are, sad to say, quite efficient ways to fob someone off without revealing so much potentially damning information.

    A final point is that while it is possible that the ladies civil action might adversely affect a ongoing police operation, a inventive investigating officer might find a way to use the action to further police objectives. Sometimes coming at a problem from a different angle is the most effective way (so getting a money laundering front shut down for hygiene or licensing violations can be an excellent disruption)

  3. Many thanks, Robert – that’s exactly the sort of clear-thinking set of possible explanations that we need. I hadn’t considered the possibility of the officer simply exaggerating the situation and being rather indiscreet – perhaps my opinion of the police is too high! But it does seem more likely now that you say it. Let’s see what others think.
    Best wishes from Susan

  4. Claire says:

    I also guess that if the officer was accepting money, he would not have spoken about the money laundering operation. There is obviously something going on, but what? Are they just really nasty people? Or not declaring part of the restaurant’s income? Or the front of a money maundering operation? How nasty can they actually get when she declares an accident? I assume the business has a license and insurance? That an ambulance picked her up? Was the officer just too lazy to take the complaint? (because in my experience, they sometimes are). And is her insurance company not asking details of what happened? It is their task to put in a claim against the restaurant… If she declared the accident in time with her insurance company, they should do their job… Ok, I am deviating from the money laundering side. The former claims manager in me is talking, and it seems all pretty straight forward to put in a claim.

  5. That’s an angle I hadn’t thought of, Claire – I don’t have your claims manager background! I’ll ask my friend what happened about insurance. As Robert suggests, a civil violation could be an excellent excuse for shutting down – or at least distracting or disrupting – a dodgy business.
    Best wishes from Susan

  6. andy coles says:

    Hi susan, as a (recently) retired police officer i would endorse all that Robert wrote. With one caveat, officers should know better than to offer up these choice bits of information whether to get the victim onside or indeed to avoid having to do any work. The case you outlined seems on the face of it to be a civil dispute and the officer ideally should have suggested that your friend follow the most appropriate route i.e. solicitors letter seeking restitution etc etc. Without getting into what the officer had going on inside his head when he said what he said i think it unlikely the local officers/station were scared just that they were not at their level engaged in investigating that level of criminality.

    • Thank you for your comment, Andrew, and welcome to the blog. It is very useful to get your perspective on this – and the whole thing is a good reminder to those of us on the “inside” of AML issues (and, for the police, many other issues of course) not to make off the cuff comments that can be very alarming and frightening for people who don’t come across such situations on a daily basis.
      Best wishes from Susan

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