Crying Wolf on Money Laundering? – 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.

Goldman Sachs’ Leissner to Take Fall For Bank?

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.

High-Priced Bongs, and Other Ways Pot Businesses Handle Cash – American Baker’s BankThink

Screen Shot 2016-06-20 at 3.51.48 PMThe 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.

Pot is legal…but the income isn’t? – Medium

Banking the proceeds remains a crap shoot for legal pot shops

Despite the fact that federal statutes make it illegal, a growing number of states (23 and the District of Columbia at last count) are approving some form of sale of marijuana to the public. These legitimate (by state) businesses have figured out how to securely grow, ship, receive and store their products, but banking the proceeds from these agribusinesses is still a crap shoot.

Banks inherently avoid risk due to the stiff penalties they face for money laundering, an activity largely associated with drugs, so any profits earned from the sale of marijuana are suspicious. As a result, nearly all of the nation’s banks refuse to even offer basic services to these businesses, their owners and employees. This has forced many marijuana-based organizations to move to all-cash transactions — spawning more opportunity for money laundering than if the transactions were handled by the financial services industry.

It’s such a murky area that a bipartisan group of U.S. senators proposed a bill that would legalize banking. . . Click here to read the rest of the story on Medium.com.

A rookie’s guide to money laundering – Medium

Turns out, it’s not that difficult

I frequently talk about money laundering and how financial services industries are required to guard against it, but I’m consistently asked by friends and colleagues, “just how easy is it to take questionable cash and turn it into legitimate funds?” Turns out, it’s not that difficult.

Despite the damage that the illegal flow of money inflicts on the global economy, it’s been occurring for thousands of years and people do it every day. It’s international in scope, with China holding the dubious honor of being at the head of the pack. Conservative estimates have China losing more than $1 trillion between 2002–2011, despite laws prohibiting foreign exchange. Other countries with significant problems include Russia, Mexico, Malaysia, India, Saudi Arabia and Brazil.

So how is it done? There are several ways a U.S. citizen with a little illegal money can launder it. . . Click here to read the rest of this story on Medium.com.

Mexico’s Know Your Country Problem – Medium

Mexico develops a U.S. dollar transfer business to thwart money laundering and encourage international commerce

Bloomberg Business broke the news last week that Mexico will soon enter the dollar transfer business in an effort to catch money laundering before it causes harm and to promote the continued exchange of U.S. currency by legitimate Mexican businesses. Mexico’s money laundering woes, followed by subsequent de-risking and this proposed dollar transfer solution, are prime examples of the impact ‘Know Your Country’ can have on a nation’s economy.

Money laundering leads to punishment and de-risking

When it comes to criminal activities, money laundering is a necessary evil. Criminal enterprises in Mexico were finding it a little too easy to launder illicit pesos through U.S. banks. For example, banks were failing to flag transfers linked to Mexican drug cartels, with Wachovia’s gaffe of failing to alert authorities to billions of dollars in wire transfers, travelers checks and cash shipments through Mexico being one of the most egregious. This led to a crackdown by U.S. regulators and law enforcers, causing many banking institutions to back out of working with Mexican businesses entirely as a way to avoid the risk of money laundering and the millions of dollars in penalties associated with it. This process of de-risking, while understandable, does not foster economic growth.

What happens now? Click here to find out on Medium.com. . .

Money laundering is not a victimless crime – Medium

When discussing money laundering, I rarely dig into the details of the victims. Instead, I’ve focused on the actions and possible motives of the criminals, the size of their crimes and the resulting penalties. This may have given the impression that money laundering is a largely victimless crime, but nothing could be further from the truth. Typically, the victims of money laundering are reimbursed for the financial crimes perpetrated against them, but often face little recourse in terms of getting compensated for physical pain and/or mental anguish in civil court — unless that case is focused on some aspect of terrorism.

Americans can legally sue foreign governments and the banks that support them for compensation related to terrorist attacks. By linking money laundering with terrorism, there may be some justice for these victims in the court system. Here are just two instances:

A Father’s Love Uncovers Iranian Mess

In 1995. Stephen Flatow’s 20-year old daughter Alisa was killed in a terrorist attack by a suicide bomber on the Gaza Strip. What followed is simply incredible. . . Click here to read the rest of the story on Medium.com.

Actress Accused of Laundering El Chapo’s Cash – Medium

Did Kate del Castillo Go Gangster to Launch Tequila Brand?

Kicking off the New Year actor Sean Penn, best known for his roles in Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Milk and Dead Man Walking, published a story in Rolling Stone that featured an interview he conducted with the infamous Mexican drug lord, El Chapo, entitled El Chapo Speaks. The story quickly went viral, mostly because of the fact that El Chapo was on the run from authorities at the time and considered ‘the most wanted man in the world’, but also because he has become almost a mythical figure in a society obsessed by fame, and was interviewed by someone almost as famous.

As a result, Sean Penn story nearly broke the Internet. With words.

Immediately questions were raised about how Penn could arrange a meeting that the authorities could not, even though it was revealed in the story that Mexican actress Kate del Castillo orchestrated it. Who is del Castillo? There are rumors that she is El Chapo’s mistress. . . Click here to read the rest of the article on Medium.com.

AML Scandals that Flew Under the Radar in ’15 – American Banker’s BankThink Blog

Screen Shot 2016-06-20 at 3.03.02 PMIn addition to anti-money-laundering scandals involving global banks and worldwide organizations such as FIFA that grabbed headlines last year, there were plenty of damaging laundering convictions and accusations in 2015 that went unnoticed but still took a heavy toll on midlevel banks.

Money laundering is a crime that occurs more often than the general public realizes, and in most sectors of our economy. In the past year alone, charity officials, a mortuary owner, a church director and a doctor providing chemo treatments were at the center of appalling cases you probably never heard about.

1. Tayfun Karauzum, of Newport Beach, Calif., was sentenced to five years in prison for distributing $1 million to $2.5 million of Potion 9, which contained a solvent that metabolizes in the body to become gamma-Hydroxybutyrate, or GHB, a known date-rape drug. He then laundered the proceeds.

2. Charles and Diana Muir were sentenced to 48 and six months in prison, respectively, and forced to return the $1.1 million they stole from a 140-year-old college scholarship charity in Louisville, Ky. — the Woodcock Foundation — that was run by Charles Muir. The couple then laundered the proceeds through Diana Muir’s dental business.

To view the rest of the top 10 most unheralded, yet just as disturbing money laundering stories from 2015 please click here.







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