Illegal Fishing represents one of the largest markets open to and exploited by organised criminal groups, but beyond overfishing and the environmental challenges this brings, other serious crimes are also involved, including drugs and human trafficking, corruption and tax evasion, particularly effecting developing Countries. its time Illegal fishing was considered as a major financial crime issue as well as an environmental one. For more read the Intelligence Briefing on IUU Fishing by FCN.
With fish and other aquatic animals an important part of many peoples diet, it’s estimated by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, that we catch approximately 171 million metric tons (likely more than 2 trillion fish) annually (2016) worth an estimated USD362 billion.
Virtual Currencies (VC) have come a long way in the 10 years since Bitcoin first emerged, born out of the financial crises and now a decade later they are considered part of the financial landscape. With more than 1,000 VC’s to choose from, tens of millions of customers use VC whether as a store of value, unit of account and/or as a payment medium. As with any currency, there are those minorities that use it to further illicit acts. Criminals have recognised that VC has unique properties that could potentially serve their interests in laundering illicit funds and evading law enforcement. Users of VC employ pseudonyms rather than names, funds can be transferred without intermediaries and across international borders as easily as sending email.
Is Money Laundering a modern phenomena?
Whilst the term “money laundering” in the sense we understand it now was first used in print in 1973 during the Watergate scandalmoney laundering as a practice reaches much further back into history. Its origins may lie as far back as 4,000BC when Chinese merchants found ways to conceal or move assets accumulated through trade in order to avoid confiscation. We can see many of the actions that form the basis for money laundering throughout history; such as the trafficking of opium after cultivation of the opium poppy began in c. 3400BC, counterfeiting of coins recorded in 640BC, the case of Hegestratos’ Fraud in 300BC, or Roman laws addressing forgery which were enacted through 80BC.
So called laundromats, like the Russian, Azerbaijani and Troika laundromats are making headlines, tarnishing once stellar reputations, and leading to serious questions about their prevalence, how they operated and for so long, why more wasn’t done and what lessons can be learned and actions taken to prevent these laundromats from washing dirty money in the future. This article on laundromats, provides an explanation and commentary on these matters.
These laundromats, are neither discreet events nor simple in construction. Indeed, the very reason they are referred to as “laundromats” rather than simple “money laundering” examples is indicative of a professionally run business rather than a one off event. They do not represent the efforts of corrupt politicians or organised criminal gangs laundering the proceeds of their own crimes, rather they are run by separate, professional money launderers who, for a fee, will clean up ill-gotten gains for just about anyone.
Whilst the term “organised crime” appears to have emerged in Chicago in 1919, the phenomenon of organised criminal activity far pre-dates this and its manifestations have developed considerably since that time. Examples include “thugs” or gangs of criminals, who terrorised 13th century India moving from town to town, looting and pillaging and “piracy” on the high seas, and highwaymen and banditry to the pre-industrial world what organised crime is to modern society. Many of today’s leading organised criminal gangs also have long histories, many tracing their origins back to feudal times, retaining links and codes from a bygone era whilst at the same time modernising and expanding their operations far beyond their traditional roots from their homelands across the world.
Whilst prohibition on alcohol in the US was presented as a victory for public morals and health, it was to prove a temporary measure being repealed in 1933.
According to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), recoveries fines & penalties arising out of the Panama Papers, has exceeded US$1.2 billion. The announcement coincided with the 3 year anniversary of publication. Countries that have provided details of amounts include the UK (US$252mio), France (US$136 mio), Australia (US$135mio) & Belgium (US$22.5 mio).
It should come as no surprise that Russia is one of the largest exporters of illicit money, and has been so for decades. This is well known. There are many reasons for large financial outflows from Russia but one that remains constant are those that involve the proceeds of financial crimes, which are being laundered internationally. Twenty years ago it was the Bank of New York that was caught up in Russian Money Laundering and whilst there have been others in between its now Danske Bank’s Estonian branch that is being investigated by numerous agencies and will inevitably pay a hefty price for its lax controls.
A few observations though. Firstly whilst there has rightly been a strong negative reaction to the roll played by Danske Bank, calling this a Danske Bank scandal misses the point.
This book tells the story of the rise and fall of Hermitage Capital, once the largest foreign investor in post soviet Russia, which made vast fortunes alongside oligarchs and criminals, sharing the spoils from the rigged privatisation of Russian Companies and the crooked markets that developed. As Hermitage made huge profits, the Company, its founder and CEO, Bill Browder, his associates and his Russian lawyers became targets, with Browder having his visa revoked and then his Russian Companies taken. According to Browder, he was taken out by powerful forces on instructions from the highest levels of the the Russian government. Browder tells of his losing battle, uncovering serious criminality by the Russian Interior ministry that took over his Companies, restated their reported profits and collected hundreds of millions of dollars in tax rebates.