I don’t know how many people rub their hands with glee when the FATF publishes a new report, but I’m one of them. I find their “typologies” reports, as they used to be called – basically, money laundering and how she is done – fascinating reading, not least because they always shed light on industries about which I know very little. Thanks to the FATF in 2015, for instance, I schooled myself in the activities of gold traders, diamond dealers, charity organisers and growers of opiates in Afghanistan – fine career options, all of them. And just recently I have been reading all about cash smuggling.
I have reviewed the report in full for that august publication Money Laundering Bulletin, so I do not propose to repeat myself here, but something I did not include in the MLB article has been amusing me ever since. This report, like all of its FATF bedfellows, offers a long bullet-pointed list of “red flags” – in short, giveaways to look for when trying to spot, in this case, rascally people trying to launder money by transporting cash. Many of the red flags are common-sense, but there are some I would never have thought of. For instance, the report warns to be cautious of people whose suitcases are sealed, e.g. by wrapping in cling-film. This is offered as a security service at many airports, which gives travellers something of a dilemma: run the gamut of light-fingered baggage handlers, or risk being hauled out as a potential cash smuggler? Or how about this red flag: “Passenger has an iron in his luggage; banknotes are sometimes ironed to make them easier to pack into small spaces.” Those of you who are snappy dressers might want to reconsider the rumpled look. Or this one: “Has refused to consume food and drinks offered on vessel, indicating that currency might be hidden in body”. Mind you, anyone travelling Aeroflot would do this out of a sense of self-preservation. And this one would have to be applied very sensitively: “Uneasy movement or unusual body shape due to bulk cash hidden on body.” What if you’re just plump and clumsy? I tell you, my next visit to Stansted is going to be quite the adventure.