I turn on the news or pick up the paper, and I hear the words “money laundering” mentioned in the same breath Paul Manafort.
Paul Manafort is a household name. He was candidate Donald Trump’s campaign manager. And he’s been headline news for weeks because of his alleged ties to Russia and accusations of money laundering for work that he did in Ukraine and a Russian oligarch.
It appears that where the U.S. Government and the media go astray is calling the movement of large amounts of money around the world “money laundering.” It is puzzling to hear the use of such terms for Paul Manafort when the only basis for using the term is because there are large sums of money, foreign clients and foreign banks involved. Let’s be real: If that was the criteria for money laundering, then most Fortune 100 companies and lobbying firms representing foreign governments would be and should be criminally investigated as well.
For the record, I don’t know Paul Manafort. I have never met Paul Manafort.
My opinions about the case of Paul Manafort, of which there is significant news coverage, is based on information that is being report almost on a continual basis.
Just like to novices, Law and Order seems like an authentic crime drama and Chicago Hope appears to capture the drama of a real ER, neither are real. To untrained ears, what most people hear being said about Paul Manafort may sound like money laundering.
But what I hear being said about Paul Manafort is nothing even close to money laundering. It could be nefarious. But it could just as easily be legitimate international business involving large sums of money and anyone engaged in that line of work knows it or should know it.
With money laundering, also sometimes called “black money,” there seems to be confusion over real the focus should lie. The reason the word “laundered” is used is because the money is dirty at the beginning and is cleaned in order to allow the holder of the funds to use it in everyday affairs. Most likely started as a descriptive title for drug money, it is now used everywhere and sometimes where it should not be used.
Having served in Afghanistan for two years at Task Force 2010, as the lead forensic accountant I saw up close the start of dirty money and subsequently how it was moved around the world, using banks, hawalas and planes. That is money laundering.
I also led the investigation of the financial sanctions placed on Charles Taylor and his associates. That is also a clear example of dirty money, as he was convicted of war crimes.
The focus on money laundering needs to get back to the original theme of attacking the source of the black money. That is the dirtiest part. Yes, the recipients and money movers are just as guilty, but the illicit chain of commerce must be proven first. The law includes required evidence that talks about “proceeds of the crime”. First, state the crime and then follow the money. It will all come together nicely.
The money movers are critical as Al Capone witnessed. These movers and shakers can be banks, very large banks, as seen by recent billion dollar settlements by Commerzbank AG, Deutsche Bank, UBS, HSBC and others. But the funds were dirty as they entered the banking circles.
I suggest a refocus on black money, the banks, hawalas and money movers. The amounts will be billions of dollars and as once a tactic by our most famous General, George Washington, if you bankrupt the enemy you will win the war.
And let’s lay off people like Paul Manafort until we know there is anything beyond a man with a business moving large amounts of money because he’s successful.
Thomas Creal, former U.N. Panel Expert and Lead Forensic Accountant for Task Force 2010.
SOURCE: Thomas Creal
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