Friday, July 26, 2013

Filthy Lucre

by Gary
As I traffic in what I proudly call lowbrow entertainment if you will – hardboiled, comics, new pulp and even a little sci-fi – what the heck would I write if say I woke up one morn and there was this nodule attached to the base of my neck.  Each time I wrote, “Eyes like unpolished marbles, she removed the gun from her Gucci clutch,” and a shock went through me making me drool and wet myself, even a cat as dense as me would get the message.  Write something else, chump. 
But what?
Nonfiction, financial crimes.  A couple of years ago I wrote a graphic novel called The Rinse.  The story was about an avuncular money launderer Jeff Sinclair that I did some background research on about this profession, the third largest in the world it’s estimated.  My example to shoot for would be Matt Taibbi who has been cranking out these great stories for Rolling Stone on high end financial shenanigans for months.  From firms fixing international lending rates, banksers laundering cartel money and getting away with hand-slap fines, to chronicling the unrepentant greed of wall Streeters, he’s the man.  He’s the guy I’d emulate.
As the blog All Things Crime summed up, “In a series of stunning articles that kicked off in July 2009 with a story on Goldman Sachs (“The Great American Bubble Machine”), Taibbi has unfolded a tale of unprecedented greed and corruption at the heart of our troubled economy. He’s written about vulture capitalism (“Greed and Debt: The True Story of Mitt Romney and Bain Capital”), bid-rigging on municipal bonds (“The Scam Wall Street Learned from the Mafia”), regulatory impotence (“How Wall Street Killed Financial Reform”), and public deception (“The Secrets of the Bailout”).”

You can’t get much more hardboiled than this sampling of tidbits of the 1 percenters running hog wild:
British businessman Robert Maxwell used the New York Daily News as a money-laundering device, funneling $238 million through the tabloid’s accounts in the nine months he owned the paper in 1991.  Maxwell drowned after either being pushed or falling off the stern of his yacht.  He was alleged to have also laundered monies from weapon sales to Iran.
In 2010, Wachovia Bank, part of Wells Fargo & Co. reached a $160 million settlement with the Justice Department over allegations that a failure in bank controls enabled drug traffickers to launder drug money by transferring money from Mexican currency-exchange houses to the bank.  Prosecutors said the bank processed $420 billion in transactions without using proper money-laundering detection.  The bank had already set aside money to cover the penalty from their profits in the deal.
Italian monetary authorities impounded $30 million from the Vatican bank and placed its top two officers under investigation in connection with a money laundering inquiry. Officials said the bank directors were under investigation for having failed to adequately explain the origins of funds transferred from one account held by the Vatican bank to two others it holds – amounts in American dollars of $26 and $4 million respectively.
Nauru is an obscure Pacific island, 1,200 miles off the coast of New Guinea. In the late ‘90s, the Russian mafiya laundered around $70 billion through “shell banks registered on the island. Shell banks exist only on paper, no physical presence, and Nauru allowed its banks to operate without recording the identities of its customers or the trail of deposited money in its accounts – making them extremely popular with money launderers. The island nation has since then assured authorities they have taken steps to rectify this situation.
Greed is good…for writing about it.


Sue Ann Jaffarian said...

Money laundering is the 3rd largest profession in the world! Wow! Thanks for teaching me something today, Gary.

Gary Phillips said...

my pleasure, Sue Ann.