I’m not going to hide it from you: I’m devastated by the Trump win. Devastated and not a little scared. I’m no fan of career politicians – I’d rather people did a proper job before turning to public service – but far worse is someone who lands the top political role in the world with absolutely no political experience. Even Ronnie “Dutch” Reagan had been governor of California for eight years before he landed in the White House. President Trump’s views on almost everything are well known – I wonder if the man ever had a view without expressing it – and so I have tried to uncover what we can expect from the Donald when it comes to financial crime (preventing rather than committing, I should make clear). Although…
In March 2015, the Trump Taj Mahal Casino Resort in Las Vegas was fined US$10 million by FinCEN (the American FIU) for “wilful and repeated violations of the Bank Secrecy Act”, including failings around suspicion reporting and record-keeping. It wasn’t the first time: “In 1998, FinCEN assessed a $477,700 civil money penalty against Trump Taj Mahal for currency transaction reporting violations.”
On 19 October 2016, the Financial Times revealed that their investigation “has found evidence that one Trump venture has multiple ties to an alleged international money laundering network. Title deeds, bank records and correspondence show that a Kazakh family accused of laundering hundreds of millions of stolen dollars bought luxury apartments in a Manhattan tower part-owned by Mr Trump and embarked on major business ventures with one of the tycoon’s partners.”
So what does a man with a less than blameless financial past plan to do about financial crime and money laundering? On 5 April 2016, he sent a two-page memo to the Washington Post explaining that he would amend section 326 (KYC provisions) of the USA Patriot Act in order to force Mexico to pay for a border wall by threatening to cut off billions of dollars in money transfers that Mexicans who are living in the US send home. The memo explains: “[Mexico] receives $24 billion in remittances from Mexican nationals working the United States.” His cunning plan is to cut off some of the money Mexico receives through wire transfers by amending the Patriot Act so that a transfer cannot be made until “the alien first provides a document establishing his lawful presence in the United States”. But if Mexico agrees to make a one-time payment of up to $10 billion for the border wall, the amendment won’t be made. The memo even has a brief timeline: on day one, announce the proposed rule change to the Patriot Act; on day two, Mexico “will immediately protest”; and on day three, say that if they pay for the wall, the change won’t be made. It can’t fail, according to Mr Trump, because “we have the moral high ground here, and all the leverage”.
Wake me up in January 2021.