I sign up for all sorts of informational updates – sanctions alerts, Google search alerts, blog posts, RSS feeds – to make sure that I am reading widely about money laundering (and AML). Some I try for a while and then abandon, either because they trickle out or because they’re not as useful or as relevant as I had hoped. But one that I just love is the GVA Dictator Alert on Twitter.
Launched by Swiss investigative journalist François Pilet and his cousin and former Google engineer Julien Pilet, the automated Twitter-bot (whatever that may be…) tracks planes belonging to various autocratic regimes. It checks movements every hour and tweets every time one lands at, or takes off from, Geneva airport. As I write, the latest update tells me that “a dictator’s plane left Geneva airport: 9K-GGD used by the government of Kuwait (Gulfstream G650)”. François Pilet came up with the idea while researching the Obiang family of Equatorial Guinea, and told a local newspaper, The Local: “A lot of corrupt and/or autocratic regimes have a strong presence in Geneva, sometimes for legitimate political and diplomatic reasons, but sometimes for much less legitimate purposes, like hiding and spending the proceeds of corruption. These people’s dealings are protected by secrecy. I like very much the idea that each time that a leader of an autocratic regime is landing in Geneva on his private jet, the information is made public instantly. We should ask ourselves each time: why exactly are they coming here?”
Another technological development has given me an idea about physically tracking those who might be intent on laundering money, but you’ll have to wait for my next post to read about it.