Here in the UK – and I am sure that many countries will have something similar – we have an organisation called the Restorative Justice Council. The purpose of restorative justice, as explained on the RJC’s website, is “[to bring] those harmed by crime or conflict and those responsible for the harm into communication, enabling everyone affected by a particular incident to play a part in repairing the harm and finding a positive way forward”. Glancing through their case studies, I can see instances of assault, burglary, armed robbery, sexual abuse, racist hate crime, death by dangerous driving, and murder. But apart from the financial loss that would accompany a crime such as burglary or robbery, I cannot see any specific examples of financial crime or money laundering. And this has made me wonder whether the perpetrators of such crimes see their actions as truly criminal.
Early on in my AML career I was talking to a fraud squad detective – oh, the heady days of sitting in a dismal office in that grim tower block on Theobalds Road in Holborn – and he said that all the money launderers he had ever interviewed considered themselves rather clever: a cut above the criminal classes, they were simply outsmarting the banks and the lawyers [or were bankers or lawyers…] by keeping prying eyes away from their clients’ money. I can tell you, dear readers, that that revelation stiffened my sinews and is probably in no small part responsible for my loathing of money launderers and my dedication to AML.
And so it brought a burst of joy to my cynical little heart to read a recent blog post on something called “Fraudster’s Diary”. To be honest, I can’t remember when I signed up to receive his posts – and they’re certainly rare creatures. But his latest one, published on 20 January 2020, is worth reading. The author is, as you might guess, a fraudster. And the blog post explains his feelings on discovering that his own elderly father had been scammed (which sounds such a jolly word, so let’s go with “cheated” instead) cheated out of £18,000 by another fraudster – indeed, someone known to the author. And the realisation of the harm finally dawns on him: “I had carried out similar scams, without a second thought, to dozens of mums, dads, and grandparents. My shame seemed boundless. In that moment, I decided to stop.” If only more financial criminals felt the same way.