The Laundries

At some point, if you write “big” thrillers, somebody is going to have to deal with millions and millions of illicit dollars.  For all its supposed complexity, money laundering really isn’t that hard — mostly because intermediaries all along the way get a cut.  Since these intermediaries include large, politically powerful banks in the US and Europe, regulatory intereference is scant.  Basically you just keep transferring the money through shell companies in pliant jurisdictions until the trail is muddy.

Particularly useful are the so-called tax havens:  countries with extremely lax rules about everything except privacy, which they guard zealously.  Switzerland is no longer a desirable location, not since UBS rolled over and gave up details on hundreds of their tax-evading American clients.  But there are plenty of others willing to step up.

An article in the current New York Review of Books provides a nice summary of current options.  (Behind a firewall, though, so you have to cough up three bucks or, better yet, go buy a copy on the newsstand.)   Russian oligarchs prefer Cyprus, for example.  Australians like Vanuatu.  And Chinese criminals flow much of their black money through the British Virgin Islands.

The author is pessimistic about anti-laundering efforts.  That is bad for developing countries and the world economy generally, but possibly good for your plot.

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