Books: In the lists

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The Independent Culture
'Money laundering' is one of those strange terms, like 'child abuse' or 'negative equity', that have slipped into comfortable everyday use. Quite right too, according to Jeffrey Robinson, who claims in The Laundrymen, number 5 on our Politics and World Affairs list, that cleaning up the proceeds of dirty dealings (predominantly in narcotics of course) is now one of the world's three biggest businesses. Unless you're looking for tips, the complicated clerical details of how it's done are pretty tedious, but the scale is mind-boggling. Pablo Escobar, the Colombian drugs baron, apparently once left dollars 40m to rot in a basement in California because he literally had more money than he knew what to do with. Robinson claims that half the cash circulating in the United States at any one time is tainted with illegal drugs. Since the Lloyd's fiasco wrecked our own City's image of probity, it's no surprise to read that London is the world's biggest money launderette, but it is disconcerting to learn that even the smiling staff at your local building society are being trained to look for suspicious signs. Next time you pay your bingo jackpot into the Woolwich, expect a call from the Fraud Squad.

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