As the country goes through a re-engineering face in fighting financial and economic crimes, one aspect that is evident, is the money laundering and terrorism trend in all these transactions.
For the longest time, we have assumed that money laundering was a street crime mostly done by ragtag back street dealers, drug barons and members of proscribed crime groups.
For a long time, more attention had been concentrated on criminal group.
However, for the last few years, there has been a major shift in the trend and more cases of white collar criminals are emerging. Initially government funds used to be classified as clean sources due to the implied due dilligence involved.
Its always assumed that government payments are only done after a thorough process of verification. Government bureacracy and multiple institutions with several stages of verification and payment have been assumed to be a watertight low risk process.
But for the last few years, especially since the inception of the devolved units, funds from public sources have attracted closer scrutiny. The scandals and prosecutions in different institutions have exposed the challenges in the payment of public funds.
Absolute disregard of rules, collussion, bribery, wanton theft ,dubious supply schemes and all economic henious crimes all which are red flags of predicate crimes that precipitate money laundering practices in trying to conceal the sources of the funds.
The new wave in the prosecution and investigative arms of government has unravelled new pointers in the emerging fields of laundering.
From these investigations, it has also been pointed out, professional businesses, mostly law firms and investment firms are the new havens for money launderers.
Due to the liberal nature of their operations, its not uncommon for a law firm to physically move large amounts of cash, present it to a bank and pass it on with little or no suspicion. The money is simply presented as client collections.
But latest revelations in prosecuted cases have placed law firms at the centre of these crimes. Either as ultimate beneficiaries or conduits within the bigger network.
Investigative link analysis has profiled them as conduits who facilitate the laundering process either posing as professional fees or as payments for dubious properties in the layering and integration states.
Unfortunately, due to the lack of a public regulatory authority, its unlikely that the culprits will be apprehended. The next emerging frontier are the real estate developers.
The field is wide and free for all . It has several fronts. These include land dealers, property developers, property management firms and the latest entrant, agribusiness agro dealers.
Most of the other elements operate in an armophous field with no regulatory body setting the rules and codes of conduct thus making them perfect playing fileds for money launderers, land flippers and fraudsters.
Their ingenuity and creative models have attracted our growing middle class which is in dire need to own property.
To drive their marketing agenda, they have looped in the media and that is why, every corner, every skyscrapper and road intersection has a property advertisement billboard. tHe emergence of digital broadcast and social media has offered the match need space.
Unfortunately, the whole process has played well for the Mass Market fraud. This is use of mass media to fraudlently collect money from the public.
Once these schemes have matured ad enough funds have been siphoned from the public, the entites just go under or rebrand as new entities. That is the reason, many would be investors have been left holding into worthless ownership papers as the conartists move on to launder clean the money and thereafter reemerge with similar or more attractive schemes.
The author is an anti-money laundering officer.
The views expressed in this article are of the author.