This common quote has several elements of truth – especially when it is also the central theme and justification for engaging in most types of criminal activity. When illegally obtained money is distributed amongst numerous other accounts in order to conceal it’s origin, this is known as Money Laundering.
“…The love of money is the route to all evil – and prison…”
What is Money Laundering ?
Money laundering is the mechanism used by criminals to conceal the illegal origin of their wealth in to avoid detection or suspicion from law enforcement agencies. Laundering money allows a criminal to effectively clean “dirty money” acquired through nefarious activity, therefore rendering any trace of incriminating evidence ineffective, or in some cases, removing it completely. Terrorists and their associated organizations or cells rely heavily on illegally acquired finance in order to fund their campaigns – ultimately leading to their ability carry out sustained terrorist attacks. Money for terrorism is funded via a wide range of sources, and whilst the perpetrators are not immediately concerned with concealing the genesis of stolen money, they do, however, make a considerable effort to obscure it’s destination and purpose for which it has been originally collected. In this sense, terrorist organizations employ techniques similar to those used in Money Laundering to hide both their finances, and the trail of which would lead directly and become attributed to them if not eradicated at the earliest opportunity.
A reliable method of preventing criminals from dealing in Money Laundering is an essential requirement for any bank or law enforcement agency that suspects the authenticity of funds derived from questionable sources. The deployment of intelligence, surveillance, and investigative techniques is a proven way of disrupting the activities of organised criminal gangs, terrorists and terrorist networks. Doing so provides the capability of diluting their activities to the point where the laundering process becomes ineffective owing to an extensively low yield, or halting their progress completely with a successful operation to eradicate their existence altogether. However, as law enforcement and banks became more advanced with technology, and as a result, adept at early detection in terms of laundering and fraud, criminals also constructed a new method of laundering money. This new method involved using normal, everyday people who did not believe that what they were doing was illegal to facilitate the distribution or transfer of stolen funds. As a result, the window of detection for law enforcement agencies dramatically reduced. This new method or laundering is known as the “Money Mule”.
What is a Money Mule ?
Anyone who participates in the handling of money from an unknown (often illegal) source by depositing it into their own account, then arranges the transfer of money to another country for a financial dividend on behalf of another individual or entity is known as a Money Mule. Criminal gangs recruit people from all walks of life – mostly those vulnerable or desperate for money in order to facilitate the laundering of funds illegally obtained via numerous channels through multiple accounts, therefore “cleansing” the money in the process. The term “laundering” means to “clean or wash”, and by definition, remove all traces of origin. If funds are stolen from one account and placed into another under a name not known to the authorities, the probability of the origin being traced back and the perpetrators brought to justice are significantly negated.
A Money Mule is acquired in much the same way as a Drugs Mule. The promise and allure of a financial dividend is enough for those looking for a quick and easy way to make money to become involved in an illegal activity that in all cases carries a severe penalty – in fact, the current sentence in the United Kingdom is 10 years. However, the recruitment process isn’t as simple as
“…take my briefcase through customs and I’ll give you £5,000…”
This is the modus operandi employed by those looking to smuggle drugs into another country via airport security. The Money Mule acquisition necessitates further effort in order to avoid detection from the law enforcement perspective, yet still remain convincing to the target. These campaigns arrive in a wide variety of formats – from adverts placed in shop windows to direct messages sent to individual email addresses harvested from another criminal source. Such emails often contain links to fake websites set up as a vehicles for laundering illegally obtained money. The content of the email may ask the recipient to participate in a study, experiment or project involving transferring money, and some have even posed as TV crews working on a new show in an effort to transfer funds elsewhere. Job applications are known to have been used as a mechanism for Money Mule recruitment – however, the argument of
“…I thought it was part of my job…”
does not account for anything when you are arrested on suspicion of Money Laundering and/or fraud. In fact, the unfortunate event is exacerbated by the fact that you, and you alone, will be responsible for the criminal activity – regardless of whether you were a willing participant or not. The last thing any sane individual wants is a criminal conviction and sentence for a crime that they did not know they were guilty of – at the same time, nobody wants to land up on a poster like this for friends and relatives (and in fact, the entire planet) to see
What should I be on the lookout for ?
Generally, your own level of caution and what you consider as a risk will play a major part here. However, below are some of the points I’ve put together in order to help you steer clear of becoming an unwilling criminal.
Exercise caution and awareness when applying for job opportunities based in foreign countries – particularly if they ask you to work in your country or origin, and there is never the intention of any face-to-face activity. Criminals are known to conduct operations outside of the country that they are laundering money in. Thoroughly research such opportunities to make sure that they are legitimate and legal. Even if you are sent a contract of employment, these have often turned out to be fake, and are only used to bolster the campaign to ensure it’s success.
Be extremely cautious of job offers that appear to come from email addresses that do not contain the name of the company – for example, such addresses as gmail.com, yahoo.com, yahoo.co.uk and many others often mean that the entity you are corresponding with is fake. Ask yourself
“…why is the person I am communicating with using a gmail address when the company they work for has a completely different name ?…”
- DO NOT engage with individuals in chat rooms who ask you to transfer money on their behalf – report them immediately – they are criminals.
- If you receive an email that asks you to take part in a survey, experiment, project, or anything else along the same lines that also involves transferring money via your bank account to someone else, delete it immediately – DO NOT respond.
- If you are “cold called” by an individual asking you to deposit money into your bank account, and then transfer it to someone else, hang up immediately – DO NOT proceed with the call, but DO notify the police.
- If you receive a direct message on social media (for example, Twitter or Facebook) asking you to deposit and transfer money to someone else, DO NOT respond – take a screenshot of the message, and send it to the provider for fraud evidence analysis and reporting purposes.
- Be SUSPICIOUS of poor grammar and spelling in communications – legitimate companies don’t typically make these types of errors and mistakes – would you do business with one that did ?
- Be SUSPICIOUS of any individual asking you to deposit money into, or use your own personal bank account for transfers on their behalf.
- Despite some of the items listed above seeming to be obvious, Money Laundering and Muling is an extremely common crime that happens on a daily basis. Who is the worst ? Nobody really knows for sure, but Nigeria and The Philippines are very high on the list. Interestingly, this article discusses how Money Laundering in London is considered the “global centre” in London for the illegal drugs trade – a potentially worrying thought.
SUSPECT it – REPORT it – STOP it.
Have you ever been asked to transfer money to another country on behalf of someone else ?