Can we clean up our act over dirty money?
You won’t be surprised to learn I’m one of those obsessive types who checks his junk mail, just in case.
That’s how I spotted, among the exclusive deals and personal enhancement offers, a warning from the National Crime Agency (NCA) about money laundering scams.
Yeah right, I thought, I’m just the kind of guy that international criminals would target in their nefarious dealings.
And yet it seems worryingly easy to get involved in ventures that turn out to be funded by proceeds of crime. Worse still, such schemes inevitably ensnare investors in fraud somewhere along the line.
The NCA advise that crooks prefer to focus on professionals like solicitors and accountants to make things look legitimate. So it’s a legal requirement to report ‘suspicious activity’ to the authorities if something smells wrong. If you don’t, then you risk official sanction and possible prosecution.
I mentioned this to a finance guy I know. He in turn told me about someone who discovered that a key backer in his land development deal was recycling drugs cash. Unfortunately, he only found out about it when the police knocked his door.
It took nearly two years for an investigation to clear the developer. During that time, his accounts were frozen, his assets seized and his business reputation trashed.
According to official figures, it’s estimated that some £4.4 billion worth of UK properties have been bought with suspected dirty money. This has prompted the Treasury Select Committee to take a look at the growing extent of economic crime. They also intend to make the rise of online fraud and scams part of their remit.
Just to put that second task into perspective, the Office for National Statistics states there were around 3.2 million fraud incidents in the UK over the year to last September.
It’s no coincidence that the Commons investigation comes as ”serious criminals and corrupt elites” are cited by government sources over the attempted murders of Sergei Skripal and his daughter in Salisbury.
I can’t help feeling though that it will take a lot more than just highlighting the problem before anyone can claim it’s going to be tackled. I hope I’m wrong.
A name too far, for some
There’s been quite a bit of fuss (real and contrived) over the announcement that the second Severn Crossing is to be re-named after the Prince of Wales - that’s the person, not the pub)
The perception in some quarters is that the Welsh Office has returned to the quasi-colonial bossiness for which it was once renowned. I’ve known Alun Cairns for a good few years though and I have to say I’ve never found that to be his style.
Indeed, I read that the ‘appropriate offices’ in Cardiff Bay were consulted beforehand about renaming and no objections were raised.
It's hard to fathom whether nationalist ire is more focused on acquiescence or the actual name but I really can’t be asked to get upset about this, either way.
As part of a generation that’s instinctively republican but holds an affinity for a head of state I’ve known all my life, I confess to mixed feelings about whether the future of the monarchy involves a handy lampost - but that’s not the big issue here.
I personally don’t give a damn if it’s called ‘Bonty McBridgeface’ just so long as the tolls are scrapped as previously promised. Otherwise we’ll most definitely be having a revolution.