I wasn't quite sure what title to give this post, as the people I'm going to talk about cross over numerous sectors and are not limited to any one profession. These are the people who allow me to disguise and hide my methodology and my proceeds. They include, accountants, solicitors, estate agents etc. If Police ever asked them if they were aware that they had colluded with me to commit a criminal offence, I'm confident that they would put on a convincing act of being yet another innocent person duped by this evil criminal. Clearly they would make no mention of their disproportionately high fees or the cash payments made by me to them in return for their services.
My brother-in-law is a Black Cab driver in London. When he is not moaning about Uber drivers ruining his livelihood, he is telling me how much his accountant has saved him during this tax year alone. Don't forget that tax evasion is illegal but tax avoidance is not. Like the rest of my family, he has no idea of my past as a fraudster and likes to create the impression of a bit of a wheeler-dealer and a likeable rogue. He tells me that a handful of accountants specialise in assisting cabbies in completing their tax returns. They know exactly what HMRC will allow them to get away with, what can be claimed to help offset the amount of tax owed and therefore maximise what they keep hold of.
Bad guys are no different. If they want to hide £500,000 obtained through fraud by buying a property, they do not go to a solicitor picked at random from the Internet. By and large, we go by recommendation from other fraudsters who have used certain individuals in the past and who have provided a good service. This includes not asking awkward questions and suggesting various alternatives of who else to involve in the transaction.
Let me give you a simple example; My 'friend' is a romance fraudster and is good at what he does. After about 18 months he had accrued £535,000 from various gullible females and one male, and had bounced the proceeds around a couple of high street bank accounts. He already had a good lifestyle and had decided that he needed to think about the future and get a toe-hold in the property rental market. This would give him an additional income (modest compared to what he earned from romance fraud), long-term capital appreciation, but best of all, the money wasn't sitting in an account doing nothing. Remember, 'these people' are astute.
One of his fellow fraudsters suggested that he speak to a guy running an independent estate agents. He is a guy who happily arranges short-term lettings to fraudsters looking for somewhere discreet to accommodate a team of mules or house those on a short visit from Eastern Europe to fraudulently open bank accounts. There is no short-term tenancy agreement signed, all dealings are in hard cash and there is no official record kept. He tends to let out properties which have an absentee landlord who is often abroad on business and has entrusted his property to this guy.
He went to see him one afternoon and introduced himself by explaining who their mutual friend was. He ushered him into the kitchen for a private conversation where my friend explained what he wanted to do. The estate agent suggested that he buys 2 properties from an auction as they are used to cash buyers and try to buy something that required improvement. He further explained that he need only drive past certain builders merchants to see groups of unemployed tradesmen keen for a days work - obviously paid in cash.
Keen not to fall foul of either legislation or some keen solicitors clerk, my friend asked how the transaction would be best handled. The agent opened his top drawer and pulled out a business card from a local solicitor. He explained that this was his 'go-to-guy' and he would do everything necessary to make sure it all went smoothly. He explained that his own advice was free, however, when my friend wanted to complete any refurbishments on the properties, he could manage the project and deal with all of the tradesmen. He added that he could also manage any future tenancies at a very preferential rate.
My friend rang the solicitor as soon as he was out of the estate agents and made an appointment for the next morning. Upon arrival he was greeted by a miserable young girl behind a desk who barely looked away from her phone to announce my friend's arrival. A door opened and he was called in. The solicitor was about 50 years old, portly and very welcoming. Before my friend could speak, the solicitor said ' I understand that you want to employ me as your lawyer. This will be a professional arrangement where I will provide you with legal advice and other legal services, including, but not limited to the conveyancing associated with the purchase of one or more properties. If you wish to employ me as your lawyer I require an up front fee of £50 in order to formalise this contract. Do you agree?'
It was at that point he realised that the solicitor was reading from a card! My friend handed over £50 and was given a contract - which duly signed. "right, we are now legal - everything from now on is subject to legal privilege so you can relax" The solicitor was disarmingly candid from this point on. He explained that he regularly did the conveyancing for numerous people who wanted as few questions as possible regarding the source of their wealth and he had never been the subject of any investigation.
He agreed with the estate agents recommendation to buy from auction but advised strongly against appearing on Homes Under the Hammer! He 'suggested' that the funds used to purchase the properties might be a combination of savings and a gift from an elderly relative. Within a month he was the owner of a 4 bed semi split into two flats. Previous tenants had trashed the flats and the previous owner had decided that being a landlord was more trouble than it was worth. Purchase price was a bargain at £480,000 leaving £55,000 to spend on the refurbishment.
Admittedly my friend paid way over the odds for the services of a dodgy solicitor, however, as a result, he has effectively washed half a million pounds representing the proceeds of crime. The property still represents those proceeds, however, he has succeeded in putting another step in the process and further muddied the water for any future investigation. The solicitor then referred my friend to an accountant who specialised in setting up offshore trusts in which he can hide his ill gotten gains. Really muddy water now.
What the estate agent, the solicitor and the accountant are doing is euphemistically referred to in the media as 'white collar crime' however, I think that to even the most dense amongst you, it is obvious that fraudsters could be nowhere near as successful without the assistance, aiding and abetting of these professional enablers.