Money laundering is all about cleaning dirty money and that’s not changed since the days of the gangsters of Chicago or the notorious Krays in London’s underworld
That’s the message from former Metropolitan police detective Mark Hewitt.
He told Business News: ‘It’s essentially taking money that is dirty and sometimes it literally is dirty money, if it’s drug money.
‘Somebody threw a couple of hundred thousand pounds of money on my desk and it was drug money, it stank of drugs. That was dirty money.
Mr Hewitt said people working in compliance and banks and other aspects of the finance industry in the island were in the ‘front line’ of the battle against money laundering. Mr Hewitt said a layman’s definition of money laundering is ‘cleaning dirty money.’
He said: ‘That’s basically it. And that’s not changed since, you know, the gangsters in Chicago in the 1920s and the Krays in the East End.’
Mr Hewitt said prison sentences in the island for money laundering offences can be up to 14 years and that ‘reflects the seriousness of this.’
Mr Hewitt has held a number of detective roles in London’s Met police specialising in financial crime.
He was a detective inspector in a confiscation unit known as the London Regional Asset Recovery Team.
Mr Hewitt was in the island to conduct courses with compliance officers and others from businesses, run by island-based investigations company Expol. Mr Hewitt
said he wanted to stress just how serious a crime money laundering is.
And he said by its very nature it often creates and spawns other crimes.
He told Business News: ‘What cheers me about coming to the Isle of Man is the fact that the regulatory system and the adherence to it and the seriousness with which the island takes the regulations is heartening.’
The meeting with Business News took place in the same week of the major anti-corruption conference in London with world leaders including the island’s chief minister Allan Bell.
Mr Hewitt claimed chief minister Mr Bell could ‘hold his head high’ at the top-level gathering.
Mr Hewitt said the island takes anti money laundering regulations very seriously indeed
‘The message that I always put out is that the biggest danger regarding issues of anti money laundering is complacency.
‘You have to take a pragmatic common sense approach to the business that you have got. But you always have to look at it with a critical eye and certainly I tell the delegates in my training lessons that . . . I show them their personal liabilities under the legislation, which are onerous.
‘There are are serious penalties if you transgress in this field but if you are sensible and you are diligent then there is no way that this legislation can catch you out.
‘Because, to get convicted of a criminal offence you must do criminal acts.
‘So if you are diligent and you do your job and abide by the rules, as I’m sure the vast majority of people in the regulatory sector in the Isle of Man do, then they have nothing to fear with this legislation and the regulations.’
In regard to the leak of information from the so-called Panama Papers, Mr Hewitt said he ‘would be very surprised’ if anybody from the Isle of Man falls foul of it.
‘If you get that much money swilling around mathematically then some of it will be dodgy. That goes without saying. I’m certain there will be issues to investigate, particularly around politically exposed persons.’
But he said he would be ‘very surprised’ if the Isle of Man was implicated in anything illegal ‘given the seriousness of the legislation and regulatory system’ here.
He said the island’s government gets involved at an early stage [in transparency issues] ‘and that’s what I like’.
Pointing to a weighty document of more than100 pages he said: ‘I read the recent GSC [Gambling Supervision Commission] guidance and I must say this guidance is among some of the best I’ve ever read, it’s excellent, absolutely excellent.
‘It’s succinct, to the point and gives practical advice backed up by the legisaltion. I’ve seen guidance in other jurisdcitions and that’s about the best I’ve seen,’ [from the Isle of Man.]’
Mr Hewitt was speaking to Business News shortly after giving two training courses for people involved in compliance in the island including anti money laundering officers, who deal with these issues day in day out.
He said the law must be covered year on year so people don’t get complacent, hence the importance of these training sessions runby Expol.
Mr Hewitt, who left the police force in 2013, said he found that the people involved in the courses were ‘engaged and professional and as good as it gets.’
Former experienced Manx police officer Robert Kinrade, a director at Expol, said further anti money laundering courses were in the pipeline along with other courses of interest to the island’s professional business community.