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Want to understand money laundering? Better call Saul!

Written by Alice McCool on Tuesday, 19 November 2013

What can series like Breaking Bad and The Wire teach us about money laundering – and how to fight it? Watch Global Financial Integrity’s video and find out.


“Make it out to Ice Station Zebra Associates that’s my loan out. It’s totally legit; it’s done just for tax purposes…”

As I’ve embarked upon watching the 5-series-long Breaking Bad for the second time, it has definitely crossed my mind that there are more useful things I could be doing. That was until I came across Global Financial Integrity’s video below which uses characters such as Breaking Bad’s Saul Goodman and The Wire’s Clay Davis to explain money laundering – and how we can fight it. It is corruption-resources-corruption-resources-educational (and related to my work) after all. Excellent news.

Too often the global financial system makes it easy for criminals to hide from law enforcement. According to the World Bank, corrupt leaders of poor countries steal as much as US $40 billion each year in assets they then stash overseas. Once removed, funds are extremely difficult to recover – we will be publishing a report later this year about why this is and what the UK can do to successfully return illegally obtained assets to their rightful owners. Our colleagues at TI France have had some success in this area – in 2011 11 sports cars worth US $5 million were seized by the French police. They are part of the great wealth believed to have been accumulated in France by the Obiangs the ruling family of Equatorial Guinea an oil-rich country where over 70 per cent of the population lives below the poverty line.

Here in the UK, it has been estimated that £23 – 57 billion of dirty money is laundered each year. However a few weeks ago the UK Government committed to implementing a public register of the true owners of companies meaning that it will become much harder to hide illicit funds in this country via banks and into property and investments. The more we know about who owns these assets, the harder it becomes to hide the corrupt origins of the money. The UK has more to do on this front, such as creating a similar register for its Crown Dependencies and Overseas Territories but this commitment is a big step.

Global Financial Integrity is a research and advocacy organization working to curb illicit financial flows out of developing countries, and they are using the video to campaign for a similar law to be implemented in the United States. This would make it impossible to form an anonymous shell company in the US – a common practice in states such as Delaware. Now sit back and enjoy the show…

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Read 7482 times Last modified on Tuesday, 24 November 2015 11:47

Alice McCool

Alice formerly worked for Transparency International UK as our Campaigns Officer. You can tweet her via @McCoolingtons.

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