The conviction that keeps on giving

It’s an old joke – “I’ve been married for twenty years; you get less for murder” – but in the UK, at least, that’s true.  According to reputable research, the average sentence for a murderer in the UK is sixteen years.  That’s only two years more than the maximum allowable sentence for money laundering, which tells us how seriously this particular crime is viewed.  And rightly so, in my humble (and perhaps rather biased) opinion, as money laundering is the enabling crime for all acquisitive crime: people wouldn’t pinch if they couldn’t launder.  But the prison sentence is only the start…

If you have a conviction for a serious financial crime on your record – and money laundering is up there at the top of the list, alongside stealing money from Grenfell victims in order to buy yourself a green dress and a ticket on the Thames Clipper – the fall-out will last for the rest of your life.  For a start, you will find yourself barred from various career options – and not just in the financial sector.  Linda Aldworth, a nurse in Rotorua in New Zealand, was found guilty in 2016 of laundering NZ$340,000 [about £173,000] for her prisoner husband, and last month the New Zealand Health Practitioners Disciplinary Tribunal decided that she cannot return to work – despite a forty-year unblemished professional record – because her offending had been “so serious and sustained” and “her misconduct goes to the heart of the practitioner’s integrity”.  Her nursing registration has been cancelled, her house has been sold to repay the victims of her husband’s crimes, and she is now living with her daughter and working in a hotel kitchen.

A money laundering conviction could also put a crimp in your travel plans.  For instance, if you “have ever been arrested, cautioned or convicted”, you cannot apply under the (quick and cheap) Visa Waiver Program to gain access to the US but instead have to apply for a visa – which entails a rather intense face-to-face interview at a US embassy and a substantial fee, and no guarantee at all of success.

Finally, there is a joy of having to declare your financial misdoings every time you apply for a financial service, such as a bank account, or a loan, or a mortgage.  And let’s be honest, many institutions are going to find it easier to say no than to think of reasons why they should take a chance on someone who has already shown their willingness to play fast and loose with other people’s money.  If you can’t get a job, a mortgage or a holiday, frankly, those fourteen years in prison will start to look rather attractive by comparison.

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10 Responses to The conviction that keeps on giving

  1. CDWOS says:

    And that’s where I have a problem as it is completely disproportionate (regardless of or in spite of a regulator/AML/CFT/Compliance background). You have assisted all sorts of criminals, petty or otherwise, by laundering but you haven’t wilfully taken a life! Murderers are given a second chance to rebuild their lives and earn their fellow humans trust!!

    • An interesting take on it, CDWOS, with which I of course disagree! (I’m of the view that, in the same way we wouldn’t want anyone with medical malpractice on their record to be a doctor again, I don’t want anyone with financial malpractice getting access to the financial system. Yes, it’s a shame that the financial system is at the heart of modern life but – as my gran was fond of saying – you should have thought of that.) Anyone else like to chime in?

      • CDWOS says:

        Susan, Valid points made but I still hold to the view that whilst I agree with keeping them away from the financial system (in the broadest sense) that does not by default give society the right to completely destroy their lives and remove their ability to provide for their themselves and their families in a meaningful way. They should at the “ordinary” man’s level be able to access (as an user only) and use basic financial services such as a bank account (albeit with a co-signatory!?) and other basic services.

  2. Absolutely right, CDWOS – they will need the basics. In the same way as we allow people to keep the tools of their trade when they go bankrupt or their assets are seized, we should give them the basics of a financial life, as you say. But I don’t think a travel visa is a basic need, and nor is working in certain professions where your honesty and integrity are core to your acceptability as an employee.

    • CDWOS says:

      Can’t disagree with you but what I find fascinating is that at the core of our discussion is the illogical and very human fact that we seem to react, for whatever innate reasoning, more strongly and emotively to someone who betrays the trust of his fellow man than we do to someone who takes the life of his fellow man (or woman, of course).

      • Is it to do with intent and length of offence? Someone who murders will often (not always) do it in the heat of the moment, whereas someone who commit a financial deception does so with planning, and over a protracted period. It seems more deliberate and calculating – and (arguably, with a large fraud/money laundering/corruption scheme) affects more people.

  3. CDWOS says:

    Yes, you make a good point. We seem to have a very strong natural reaction to being cheated or duped, in some cases our reaction seems to be far more robust and extreme than if someone has been killed/murdered. I can’t decide whether it is the heavily ingrained “fair play” culture of the Western World or whether it runs deeper and is part and parcel of being human and treating others as equals, with respect, honesty and trust in which case it come down to the betrayal of trust which seems to provoke an extremely strong and emotional reaction and probably quite rightly as if we lose the ability to trust each other then Society, as it is currently structured, will break down as it is reliant upon trust for it to work. (Golly, what a deep and meaningful discussion for a Friday morning!!)

  4. Roy McCarthy says:

    The compliance industry tends to treat money laundering as an academic, tick-box paper exercise. Too few of us stop to consider how much death and misery is caused by – drugs traffickers, arms runners, human traffickers, extortionists, kidnappers….and on we go. You stop the laundering and you stop the crime, but it ain’t stopping. Not as far as I can tell.

    I’ll take the spur-of-the-moment murderer before any of those listed above.

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