Diamond geezers

I have been working in AML now for, well, let’s just say more than two decades.  People often ask whether I find it boring, and I can perfectly honestly say that I don’t.  And for that, I have to thank the criminals – endlessly imaginative and devious as they are.  They are always thinking of new ways to launder their money, and last week a particularly sparkling example of their inventiveness was highlighted, when two London diamond dealers were jailed.

Dutchman Danny Koort and his English girlfriend Jeanette Rosen ran a legitimate diamond-trading business from their home in East Finchley (north London), but spent most of their time laundering an estimated £53 million for criminal gangs.  Rosen would meet couriers in the street – including one called Andrew Russell – to collect large sums of cash.  The scheme fell apart in July 2014 when police, after watching Russell at a meeting in an Essex hotel and then at a rendezvous with Rosen, arrested him with almost £200,000 in a large holdall.  Later that year they arrested Rosen on a street in central London, carrying a bag containing almost £170,000 – searches of her office and car turned up €235,000 and £17,000 in cash, and ten pay-as-you-go mobile phones with code names written on them.  A closer look at their financial records showed that Koort and Rosen kept careful records of their laundering, using code names such as Fiat, Honda, Champagne, Cristal and Caviar to refer to customers, while at their home police found a piece of paper headed “My big friend” showing calculations for amounts in sterling and euros, with an outstanding amount of £60,100, along with a bag of counterfeit banknotes.  Koort has been jailed for eleven years, Rosen for ten and Russell for four.

I’m not terribly familiar with the diamond trade myself – one engagement ring does not a Kardashian make – but I do know that it has changed beyond recognition in recent years.  It used to be almost the definition of a closed shop, with mining, cutting and polishing, setting and then retail selling all done by a very small community, well known to each other and relatively easy to police.  But that has all changed, and if you’re not up to speed, I can highly recommend the October 2013 FATF report on this industry – it’s a real eye-opener.  Anyone buying diamonds these days must be aware of the five Cs: cut, colour, clarity, carat – and criminality.

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