From little acorns

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Apologies for the confusion at the start of my blog post on 4 September: I was not back at all, but actually watching elephants swimming in Botswana.  I wrote a couple of posts in advance, to cover my absence, and then moved them around at the last minute without noticing the mistake.  I am now genuinely, really, honestly and totally back home.

In the spirit of sharing real-life examples and near misses, I offer this cautionary tale.  I was recently discussing a money laundering case with a financial investigator.  Underlying it all was a story as old as time: a young woman had convinced an older man that, if he really loved her in the way he professed (of which she needed to be certain before sharing her womanly favours with him), he would lend her large amounts of money to invest in her business.  When he did (both love and lend), she spent the lot on bling-y fripperies and general high living.  When denied the favours to which he felt entitled, the poor fellow had eventually taken his tale of woe to the police, who thought they might be able to bring charges of fraud and money laundering.  Central to it all were those fripperies (now that’s not a sentence you read every day).  They visited the young lady and had a snoop around her apartment, but she lived seemingly modestly, surrounded by minimal bling.  And then they asked for her bank statements.

Now, they weren’t expecting to find much, to be honest.  The lovesick swain had demonstrated his love by handing over wads of cash (she told him it was simpler), so the investigators doubted they would see much movement through the bank.  But then they spied something interesting: a monthly payment to one of these self-storage places, for three large containers.  A search warrant was obtained for the containers, et voilà – fripperies as far as the eye could see.

The monthly storage charge on the bank account is the sort of tiny detail that might escape notice.  It’s a handy example to pass on to staff, of something seemingly innocuous that could – in a due diligence exercise – raise questions.