This blog – much like its author – veers wildly between buoyancy and doom, and this week it’s the latter. Sorry about that. And it’s about the pestilence. Sorry about that too. But there’s no lock-down for criminality and I assume that the MLROs among you are still keeping your staff posted with information about developing risks. With that in mind, here are four warnings you can pass on (from a safe distance, of course).
Much as I try my hardest to ignore any news coming across the pond from the US, I think this source is reliable. At the beginning of April, the FBI issued an official warning about criminals using the pandemic uncertainty and fear to recruit money mules. They are promoting work-from-home schemes, and asking for donations in order to get access to US bank accounts. Neither of these approaches is new, but people’s minds are so full of panic that they are not spotting the usual signs.
Police in Scotland have noticed that local organised crime groups have had to reduce their usual drug activities as travel restrictions have damaged their supply chains. Instead they are stockpiling personal protective equipment and coronavirus testing kits, sometimes by posing as buyers for NHS trusts and care homes. It might not be (quite) so bad if the stuff they were selling (at vast profit) was genuine, but much of it is counterfeit, out of date, mis-labelled or otherwise non-compliant.
Roberto Saviano – author of “Gomorrah” – knows a thing or three about the mafia, and he is warning that organised crime groups are planning ahead, waiting in the wings to take over businesses that are driven to the wall by the economic collapse. His contacts tell him that mafia groups are also stocking up – on favours: moneylenders are cancelling interest on debts, while mafiosi organise food deliveries to poor Italians, and you can be sure that those favours will be called in one day. And as rotten luck would have it, for decades the mafia has been investing in particular sectors, whose day seems to have come: cleaning, waste recycling, transportation, food distribution and funeral homes.
And in a final piece of dark humour, word reaches me that fraudsters are trying their latest spin on the advance fee fraud: people are receiving emails purportedly from MONEYVAL, saying that they have won a lottery, or received an inheritance, or are eligible for a cut of some money confiscated from criminals. Unsurprisingly, all they have to do to receive their bounty is supply their full bank account details and pay a small administrative fee. I guess to the non-AML-ish, MONEYVAL does sound like the sort of place that would dish out the dough.