From Simon Cowell to David Cameron’s father, the Panama Papers offer up a rogue’s gallery of wealthy UK citizens
Which country/region has seen its highest profile citizens, celebrities and politicians most exposed by the Panama Papers? For Western nations it is the UK, by a landslide. From Prime Minister David Cameron’s father to American Idol creator and producer Simon Cowell to Margaret Thatcher’s son, the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ, which released the Panama Papers) and the press in the UK have produced a rogue’s gallery of wealthy actors. Keep in mind, none of the UK’s ‘dirty dozen’ has admitted to any wrongdoing.
In the event you don’t have time to review the Panama Papers’ data, the infographic posted above that lays out the case for each member of the ‘dirty dozen’. . . To view a full size render of this graphic, please click here: The Panama Papers and the UK’s ‘Dirty Dozen’ — Medium
How much do you really know about your neighbor?
In the course of analyzing the ins and outs of financial crimes for the world’s banks, I’ve studied enough cases of money laundering to enable me to do it should I ever decide to become a criminal. In fact, what I’ve learned is that it pays to be a criminal. Rarely does the restitution in finance-related legal decisions match the amount of money originally stolen. And depending on the type of person you were before your crime spree, your punishment could be just a short vacation in a crime camp as opposed to an extended stay in prison. Regardless, the rest of your stolen loot is waiting for you upon your exit so you can go legit and eventually become a pillar of your community.
Case in point: the most famous financial criminal of all time, Frank Abagnale. He is now a recognized expert in the fight against financial fraud, has worked for the FBI and became a bestselling author by telling his story in a book called, Catch Me if You Can. You probably know Abagnale better as Leo DiCaprio’s main character in the Steven Spielberg-directed film adaptation of his book, which presented Abagnale’s style of financial fraud as a glamorous, cash-filled party. As with his crimes, he issued a laissez faire statement in response to questions raised by the press regarding the validity of the ‘stories’ in the book. . .
Click here to read the rest of this story: Do financial crimes pay off? — Medium
The Big Buddha, the nightlife and other reasons drug kings love to stash cash in The Pearl of the Orient
Latin American drug cartels have apparently infiltrated Hong Kong with cocaine and methamphetamine, and as a result, new reports of money laundering are starting to leak out of the Asian peninsula. According to media covering this emerging story, three Columbian individuals based in Guangzhou, China have been accused of laundering more than five billion dollars for drug cartels based in Mexico and Colombia. They operate in Hong Kong, using bank accounts based there and in mainland China.
Investigations by the South China Morning Post (SCMP) show that the infamous Mexican Sinaloa cartel, run by the equally infamous El Chapo, has established a criminal and legitimate corporate presence in Hong Kong. In addition to trafficking cocaine and meth to the city, the SCMP says the “group also ran front companies and bank accounts which it used to launder drug funds, according to official Mexican documents and interviews with law enforcement sources.”
A violent Sinaloa spin-off, the Jalisco New Generation cartel, is quickly making inroads in Hong Kong too. . . Click here to read the rest of this story: 5 things drug cartels love about Hong Kong — Medium
Canadian authorities creative in shutting down financial crimes
A few weeks ago, I warned readers about the money laundering avalanche that could be headed straight for our northern neighbors, Canada. In an effort to stave off this avalanche, the Canadian government has taken impressive proactive steps as of late. In the first example, we see an unlikely pairing of agencies to curb money laundering in casinos; in the second, the Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada (FINTRAC) takes on the heavy role of bringing the Canadian real estate market up to speed on anti-money laundering regulations and compliance.
An unlikely pair
When you think about anti-money laundering efforts in casinos you probably don’t assume that a gang unit will come to the rescue, but that’s exactly what is happening today in British Columbia. The newly formedJoint Illegal Investigation Team, which will be housed within the Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit (CFSEU-BC), combines an anti-gang agency with the Ministry of Finance’s Gaming Policy and Enforcement Branch. As a team, its mission is to investigate groups that use gambling facilities to legalize financial proceeds from criminal activity.
The task force creation is a key part of Phase 3 of the BC government’s anti-money laundering strategy, which launched in 2011. This action seems overdue considering that money laundering activity in casinos is reaching a boiling point. One chart shared by the task force indicated that the total amount of suspicious cash transactions since April of last year totaled $119.1 million. . . Click here to read the rest of this story: Money launderers get the gangster treatment — Medium
Has Erik Prince fallen from a trusted provider to the U.S. government to a known bad actor?
Erik Prince’s real life reads like fiction. Son of a wealthy industrialist, he’s been a White House intern, attended the prestigious Naval Academy, is a former Navy Seal, founder and former chairman of the defunct Blackwater USA, current chairman of Frontier Services Group…and now, an accused money launderer? According to a piece published in The Intercept, Prince is under investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice and other federal agencies for attempting to broker military services to foreign governments and possible money laundering.
How did an intelligent, wealthy, well-educated and well-connected Prince fall so far out of favor? After forming Blackwater’s notorious mercenary services organization in 1997, Prince either served as the American society’s hero or villain, depending upon which side of the political aisle one was standing on. The Republican Party embraced Blackwater, while the Democrats saw legal and moral issues; regardless, in 2010 the Obama administration still funded Blackwater to the tune of $220 million for State Department and CIA support. All told, the company received over two billion dollars in government security contracts between 1997–2010.
Prince resigned as Blackwater’s chairman in 2009 after he was exposed in the press as an alleged CIA asset by former CIA director Leon Panetta. . . Click here to read the rest of this story: A chink in the prince’s armor? — Medium
The soft underbelly of rural America provides perfect hiding places for even the most unusual schemers
If you want to find bison roaming freely on the prairie or long, dusty roads where the vistas stretch for empty miles, Oklahoma is where you want to be. Until recently, this sparsely populated landscape is also where you could have found a lucrative horse ranch that two leaders of Los Zetas, a ruthless Mexican drug cartel, used to launder more than $22 million.
Money laundering in America isn’t just happening in the more obvious places such as Atlantic City’s gambling district or Manhattan’s high-priced real estate market. Thieves are getting craftier…and thinking outside of the box when it comes to choosing a home base for illegal operations.
One wonders why federal authorities didn’t figure out in quicker fashion that the Oklahoma horse ranch was shady, since a number of the racing horses had vanity names such as “Number One Cartel” and “Morning Cartel.” But eventually, justice was served. . . Click here to read the rest of this story: Where Money Laundering Hides in America — Medium
If you believe some of today’s headlines, the answer is yes
According to a report issued by Transparency International, Canada is one of the least corrupt countries in the world. And, thanks to its FINTRAC unit, it has long been rumored to be one of the toughest enforcers of money laundering regulations at the government level unit. However, reports are now emerging in its media outlets about new money laundering opportunities and threats in Canada — proof that no country is truly immune to the evils of financial fraud. My take? Since these are just threats and not real cases, I think they may be indicators of Canada’s strength, rather than weakness.
I fear too many North American readers of news stories today only catch the headlines and fail to digest the actual content. They see a headline that says liquor stores, casinos or real estate companies in Canada could fall victim to money laundering schemes, and walk away from the article thinking that the country has somehow lost its tough grip on its regulations. In actuality, nothing could be farther from the truth.
Unlike most government operations, FINTRAC is very proactive. Here are some examples. . . Click here to read the rest of this story: Is a money laundering avalanche about to smack Canada? — Medium
Banks and the media that covers them are crying wolf on money laundering cases, here’s why that could be bad
We’ve all heard the Aesop fable about the ‘boy who cried wolf,’ teaching us that false reporting will do more harm than good. I am reminded of this story daily in reading the all-to-frequent headlines on money laundering that land in my inbox. I’ve long felt that the media was, in many cases making unfounded accusations of money laundering in headlines covering financial fraud cases.
Upon further digging, I discovered a working paper from the IMF that determined ‘crying wolf,’ or false — and too frequent — reporting on money laundering can overwhelm the governing agencies and fail to improve the prosecution rates for money laundering crimes. What’s the solution? Simply put, it’s on all of us, including financial institutions and the media, to do better.
In the Media:
Since my consulting business focuses on helping banks navigate the many regulations tied to money laundering, I receive daily news alerts on the topic. Every day, there are 10–15 new headlines about money laundering. At first I was surprised, even though I know money laundering happens all over the world on a daily basis. . . Click here to read the rest of the story on Medium.com.
Is Goldman Sachs in trouble in the tropics? One of its top executives, Tim Leissner, the Singapore-based chairman of Goldman’s Southeast Asia operations, remains under investigation by the FBI for his connections to embattled Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak. Razak has come under fire from the Malaysian government regarding $681 million in funds that were mysteriously transferred to his personal bank account by the Saudi Arabian government.
In addition, Leissner is being investigated for his role in striking deals worth $6.5 billion for his employer with the Malaysian financial fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), owned by Razak, for which Goldman Sachs earned an almost $600 million commission, amounting to 9.1 percent of the money raised. The average commission for an investment bank is about five percent, or less.
Leissner, 45, who was married to model and fashion designer Kimora Lee Simmons in 2013 (Simmons is the former wife of hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons), reportedly was considered one of the financial firm’s ‘Golden Boys’. . . Click here to read the rest of this story on Medium.com.
The good, the bad and the ugly of the legal marijuana business
With medical marijuana now legal in 23 states and recreational marijuana legal in Colorado, Washington, Alaska and Oregon, cannabis is a legitimate growth industry generating substantial income. In Colorado alone, the pot industry is expected to pour an estimated $120 million in tax revenue in the state’s coffers for 2015. Nationwide, medical and recreational marijuana as an industry is expected to net between $2 and $3 billion per year in revenue.
You might think banks would be lining up to do business with these cash-rich entrepreneurs, but nothing could be further from the truth. The banks, rightfully so, in my opinion, assume they are putting themselves at risk with the federal government by engaging in marijuana-based businesses, as marijuana is still considered an illegal substance on the federal level. And the reality is today’s banking industry is all about risk mitigation, especially when it comes to cash-based businesses and the potential for rampant money laundering.
Yet, as I stated above, this is a quickly growing and legitimate industry in the states where it is legal. In its infancy, however, marijuana entrepreneurs are facing a mountain of regulatory and financial issues. The biggest of these issues is the lack of access to banking services. Here are what I’d consider the good, the bad and the ugly stories related to legal marijuana banking and taxation.
To read the rest of this story at American Banker’s BankThink blog, please click here.
Originally published at www.americanbanker.com on February 29, 2016.