Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

The Bad Smell of Money Laundering! - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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Crimes have developed and corruption has taken on various forms. The past few years has seen the emergence of the new term ‘white-collar crimes,’ strongly imposing itself on the legal arena. There is clear indication of a significant increase in the number of cases and crimes related to the business world amongst people in high positions and senior executives in companies and governments.

Perhaps the most dangerous issue in the world of white-collar crimes is money laundering. This is not a new issue as it took on different forms in the past and this issue began to appear in a strong way with the increasing influence of heads of powerful families in the bleak underworld known as the mafia. It relied on the alcohol trade in the past and on loans [with excessive interest rates] and then it entered the fields of gambling and prostitution, and matters developed till they reached the level of trading in drugs, contraband, fake goods, fake medicines, arms, gold and silver.

As the new mafia’s influence on a number of fields increased, so too did the need to appropriately cover up its operations in order to keep suspicion at bay and justify the wealth. So retail companies began to expand very quickly without the direct returns that justify this expansion. There was also expansion in the field of ambiguous banks and real estate development companies that build but do not sell buildings, and other examples that are known in their own countries. Sometimes they take on very “ordinary” forms such as hospitals, schools, contractors, and houses in order to keep the suspecting eye away from those who deal with them.

But with the fall of “important figures” in countries like Russia, America, and Spain and in Africa, their ties to members of the terrifying international mafia were revealed. It was also revealed that they were transferring billions of dollars from their accounts and companies all in exchange for profitable returns. Perhaps the best example of a white-collar crime that came to light was the case of the famous financial advisor Bernie Madoff, the American who lost over 50 million dollars in the biggest operation of its kind. Some investigations showed that he was making many suspicious transactions to do with money laundering around the world; most prominently with companies in Israel trading in human organs.

This kind of crime is very dangerous and it is clearly spreading in many cases through well-known companies and throughout the economic world or through small companies that do not attract attention and look like simple shops selling cheap goods at cheap prices; shops selling honey and Oud for example.

The issue of money laundering does not stop there; there is a lot of controversy nowadays that it is possibly linked to financing terrorism because a movement like the Taliban, for example, is exporting the poppy flower; the main flower from which the dangerous drug opium is produced (the Taliban movement control 90 percent of the international poppy market). These exports get to the international market via the mafia in Russia and the Ukraine that re-launders the profits through companies and well-known figures in the economic field.

The world today is facing a dangerous problem that has penetrated the economic field and has damaged its reputation and upset the balance. Money laundering has developed in a scary way and if it is neglected it will threaten the economies of all countries around the world.

Hussein Shobokshi

Hussein Shobokshi

Hussein Shobokshi is a businessman and prominent columnist. Mr. Shobokshi hosts the weekly current affairs program Al-Takreer on Al-Arabiya, and in 1995 he was chosen as one of the "Global Leaders for Tomorrow" by the World Economic Forum. He received his BA in Political Science and Management from the University of Tulsa.

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