In Hong Kong recently, an Indonesian domestic worker who allowed a friend to use her bank account to deposit the proceeds from a loan-sharking business (which charged interest rates of 1,000%) was jailed for money laundering. At her trial, Ms Rianah told the court that yes, her friend had mentioned to her that the police were asking about money laundering, but that she thought it meant washing dollar notes with water and detergent. The judge did not believe her, not least because – despite her protestations of ignorance – she had nipped into the bank and closed her account the day after being warned about the money laundering investigation.
And in another case, this time in the UK, a pensioner was given a suspended sentence for money laundering after becoming ensnared in an online dating fraud – a victim herself – and allowing other victims to use her bank account to send money to the fraudsters. As the police officer leading the investigation explained: “If someone online that you have never met in person asks you for money it is highly likely that it is a scam. Please don’t give your bank details to people you don’t know personally and never allow funds to be placed in your account for transferring on – this is money laundering.”
It seems that all of our public education about money laundering is paying dividends in one regard: courts are now unwilling to accept ignorance of it as a defence.