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Washing the dirty laundry

Member: Nifa

Type ‘money laundering UK’ into a Google search and you get over 200,000 results.  Many may not be relevant but there is no doubt that money laundering features more commonly in the commercial world than ever before. In a nutshell, money laundering is the process of seeking to give apparent legitimacy to the proceeds of crime by passing them through different accounts or transactions enough times to ‘clean’ them.

Of course, this is a complex process, whereby a criminal may buy and sell assets or engage in gambling to create the illusion of a legal source for their ill-gotten gains. They will often do this via a series of bank and cash transfers in the hope that the trail will be too difficult to follow to its source. However, they are mistaken in this regard, as, if they are investigated by any authority around the world, the investigators will bring in forensic accountants, who almost always get to the original transaction.

That said, it is not an easy job.  There are any number of ways criminals can attempt to cover their tracks. For example, some invest in businesses that typically take a lot of cash, such as car parks or casinos. Once the money has gone in, they can try to claim that all the cash generated by the business is legitimate. The emergence of digital currencies such as Bitcoin has made asset tracing harder than ever.

In such cases, the forensic accountants will draw on years of experience and their accountancy skills to investigate discrepancies in the money trail. They will interview witnesses and trawl through associated documentation, from phone transcripts to emails until they uncover the vital evidence they can present to a court of law that proves a criminal source.

Conversely, they might be retained by a legitimate business owner who has been accused of money laundering, in which case they will be looking for concrete evidence of innocent transactions. Whatever their remit, they will do their utmost to get to present the financial evidence in a manner that is objective, clear and compelling.

Author: Roger Isaacs, 9 May 2017

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