Thursday, July 29, 2004

What is a money-launderer’s duty of care?
As in – if you’re entrusted with $860,000 of drug money to launder through the tables at Melbourne’s Crown Casino, what is the minimum amount of “clean” cash that you are expected to hand back over?

Apparently, a net, “clean” $350,000-odd  is not good enough.    Such a sum is indeed so unsatisfactory that your own, plus your family’s lives are well and truly on the line, if that’s the way the cards fall for you.

Personally, I think that this is a tad unfair on the erstwhile money-launderer.  Sure, if he’d literally tipped half a mill down the drain, or blown it on a few big nights of cocaine and hookers, then he’d deserve whatever he got.  As far as I can tell, though, the guy here simply gambled the money, as he was contractually expected to do.  I assume that he gambled as proficiently and “luckily” as he would have if the money was his own – the mere fact of losing heavily at a casino table is not, of course, prima facie evidence of the gambler’s lack of proficiency, dedication-to the-task, etc.

While there such a thing as low mathematical-risk money laundering – making “matching” bets on the same table – this method is bound to attract unwanted attention.  Casinos generally do not batt an eyelid at dishevelled gamblers peeling out limitless rolls of cash, but when two people are indulging in a risk-averse betting system – that is something unusual.

If you’re running a Chinese organised crime gang, though, these practicalities and rationalities seem to be given short shrift.

I wonder what is the appropriate State “harm minimisation”-type strategy here?  On one hand, a public education campaign could take place, indicating that laundering money through casino tables is not always “safe” money laundering.  A run of bad luck, and it’s Poof! to all or most of your ill-gotten gains.

Alternatively, there could be a “Job Watch”-style campaign targeting would-be money-launderers.  Such persons could to told to always insist on a written contract, which specifies that they are entitled to lose a certain percentage of the booty, subject to the employee using their “best efforts”, etc.  And most importantly, when and if they reach the said loss limit, their employment is instantly terminated – so leaving both parties where they stand, and without recourse to any further, ahem, contractual remedies.      
Bottom line:  there may or may not be honour among thieves.  But there’s no excuse for not imposing the civilising salve of mathematics on them.

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