An invisible network connects us all to crime: the people who move dirty money into the law-abiding economy. In doing so, they fuel crime, poverty, terror attacks and misery the world over.
BAE Systems has identified six groups of people who make money laundering happen. Know them, and it’s easier to understand the scale of the problem, how it can affect all kinds of organisation, and see how tackling it is not just possible, but imperative.
Uncover The Invisible Network with our guide to the six common personas involved in money laundering.
Motivated by greed, Sharks enable crime. They’re often professionals of some sort: lawyers, estate agents, accountants, casino operators, working for a legitimate organisation with strong compliance controls in place. But they’ve gone rogue, and provide their clientele with an inside line around money laundering controls.
A cold-blooded predator, they swim among law-abiding workmates, subverting their employer’s controls to line their own pockets. They’re one of the most serious dangers for businesses as a result.
They need hard cash to cling to power, from bribing henchmen to maintaining their luxurious existence. It takes an army of cronies, professionals and family to move their wealth in and out of their country, evading sanctions and oversight.
Leaders use the services of Sharks and Bystanders to introduce their funds to the licit banking system. More often than not, they’ll be keen customers of the Bystanders, buying luxury goods, properties and vehicles for themselves, their family and key allies.
There are those who actively commit crime, and those who are happy to pretend they haven’t seen it because it suits their ends. This latter group – Bystanders – won’t actively facilitate a crime, as Sharks and Shop Fronts do, but they certainly won’t sound the alarm if they have suspicions.
Blinkered by greed, the bystander will convince themselves that they’re not witnessing flagrantly illegal or merely suspicious behaviour because it will line their own pockets.
All eyes are on them: they’re high profile individuals, politicians or civil servants. Some of them are up to no good. Politically Exposed Persons (PEPs) are in positions of power, influence or opportunity who could either be corrupted, or if they set their minds to it, facilitate corruption.
They’re senior civil servants or public figures. They might be civil servants – but equally, they could be close friends or relatives of senior public servants or those who hold political power.
They’re white collar fraudsters, cyber criminals or organised crime gangs, and they make plenty of illegal profit from doing bad things. The problem is, they can’t spend it until it looks like all that wealth has been accumulated legally. These people are the reason money laundering exists on the scale it does.
At the same time, their greed is the reason societies and people suffer from criminal acts. If they can extract profit from their illegal activities, they’ll carry on committing them.
The Shop Front
It’s an entire enterprise built on disguising criminal activity and ownership – a business rotten to the core.
Sharks and other criminals will often start businesses to look legitimate but which are built from the ground up to launder money and put a legitimate face on their criminal clients. These operations run from business registration companies to law firms, financial advisers, real estate consultants and in one case, an entire transnational bank.
It's not just financial institutions that need to watch out for money laundering activity, and it's not just banks that suffer at their hands - it's almost any business, and society as a whole.