According to a recent article in the Economist, Trade is the Weakest Link in the Fight Against Dirty Money. And, as a result, your supply chain is threatened. But let’s back up a bit. The article starts off by noting that:
Cuddly toys don’t have to be stuffed with cocaine or cash to be useful to traffickers. A few years ago American customs investigations uncovered a scheme in which a Colombian cartel used proceeds from drug sales to buy stuff animals in Las Angeles. By exporting them to Colombia, it was able to bring its ill-gotten gains home, convert them to pesos and get them into the banking system.
But this is not the only way cartels are abusing trade. For example, we also have mis-invoicing, and the example of:
A front company for a Mexican cartel might sell $1m-worth of oranges to an American importer, while creating paperwork for $3m-worth, giving it cover to send a dirty $2m back home. One group of launderers was reportedly caught exporting plastic buckets that cost $970 each from the Czech Republic to America.
And now, to make matters worse, as chronicled in Drug Cartels are ruining Cinco de Mayo, in addition to using trade to launder dirty money, when they don’t get their way, drug cartels are using violence to take control of high-value shipments, bolstering their ability to not only launder money across borders but control entire commodity markets in a country, which means they make large profits off of their money laundering activities.
So, you have:
- Old-Fashioned Laundering where money is converted to products, shipped, sold and converted back to money
- Mis-Invoicing Laundering where money is converted to products, bought low, and sold high
- Market-Manipulation Laundering where cartels force products high on the market through demand manipulation so they can buy high, sell slightly higher, and not attract attention because the products are being bought and sold near market price
And each threatens your supply chain.
With old-fashioned laundering, a trading partner could be buying and selling your product to launder money, putting your company at risk of being identified as an accomplice to money laundering.
With mis-invoice laundering, your company is part of the money laundering scheme, which means someone in your company is part of the money laundering scheme, and this could bankrupt your company if the DoJ swoops in and shuts your company down while the mess is sorted out.
With market-manipulation laundering, if you are a buyer or a seller of the product being manipulated, you are affected as your costs can quickly skyrocket and your product lines will be at risk if your competition senses the situation and scoops up available inventory before you do.
Unfortunately, there’s not much you can do on your own except maintain vigilance and make sure that your supply chain is not involved. You do this by way of regular auditors from independent third parties who report not to the people doing the trading and keeping the books, but the CEO and CFO who could be criminally on the hook if the money laundering schemes of terrorist organization are aided and abetted by the company.