Come clean on money laundering

The action is all part of the misguided, unwinnable and often hysterical `war on drugs'

THE BAD news, which most people in Britain know by now, is that a $500,000 bung to the Democratic Party of the United States is about to put an end to the livelihoods of thousands of banana-growers in the Caribbean and many workers in the cashmere factories of the Scottish Borders. The worse news, which is only just dawning on many, is that the struggling Caribbean is about to be hit by a second, and perhaps more damaging, body blow. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office is publishing a White Paper next week which will threaten the administrations of Britain's 13 remaining colonies with terrible punishments if they do not halt their participation in the trade of handling the cash generated from narcotics.

At the same time, the United Nations is convening a meeting of its Global Programme Against Money Laundering in Vienna in what will be a vain attempt to stop citizens of all nationalities handling those greasy bundles of soiled banknotes, or trading their worth over computer screens.

This action is all part of that misguided, unwinnable and often hysterical "war on drugs", which was originally a stratagem of the late and unlamented Richard Milhous Nixon to curry favour with the middle class of his country, and which rumbles on against all logic to this day. As any war does, the war on drugs creates chaos in its wake; such chaos is about to be wrought on the West Indies and other spots around the globe.

Wherever it is attempted, the business of trying to stop money-laundering is as impractical an enterprise as trying to stop people taking narcotics, smoking tobacco or drinking alcohol. In the Twenties the US Congress decreed that alcohol should not be sold. Reality ensured that Prohibition was rescinded a decade or so later, but not before it had spawned generations of gangsters and enthroned corruption in American police forces from Manhattan to Miami.

In a bid to achieve some success in their efforts today, governments engaged in the war on drugs are putting small and vulnerable economies in their sights. They realise that they have about as much chance of stopping money-laundering in the myriad banks of Europe and the United States as pigs have of flying.

So they go for the easier targets in places with tiny populations and simple administrative structures where everyone knows everyone else. They realise that by moving in on, say, the British Virgin Islands, the Caymans or the Turks and Caicos they will, in fact, do little to halt the major money launderers. But it will look as though they are doing something about the problem and getting some results.

And this is not just opportunistic, it is also perverse. Decades ago Her Majesty's Government was encouraging dots of British islands in the West Indies to go in for "financial services", for the simple reason that there was precious little else for them to live off. The islanders, backed by creative financiers in the City, Amsterdam and Wall Street, quickly built up offshore emporiums. There, taxes could be avoided in comfort and money could be swapped from round the world via the satellite communications which had been thoughtfully provided by Cable and Wireless.

Nowadays the financial fun and games that were once encouraged are deemed to be evil, and have to be stopped. But today, as in the Sixties, the West Indians still have few alternative ways of making a living. Sugar has long since stopped being the nice little earner that it once was and the local peasantry who grow bananas must submit to the power of the cheque book belonging to Mr Big in Washington. Now they are being told to bow gracefully out of the money business.

And it is not only the peoples of the Caribbean who are being affected. What, for instance, are the Gibraltarians supposed to live off these days if they are denied the fruits of money-laundering? The Cold War is over, the Mediterranean - well, all right, the western Mediterranean - is at peace and the Rock has lost its once immense strategic significance. There is a limited demand among the people of Andalusia for the warm beer and cold fish and chips which the Gibraltarians used to sell at enormous profit to the jolly tars of the Royal Navy. Their financial dealings are one of the few lifelines they have left.

Robin Cook and the United Nations must surely realise sooner or later that these latest campaigns of theirs are as unjustifiable as they are futile.

Arts and Entertainment
Call The Midwife: Miranda Hart as Chummy

tv Review: Miranda Hart and co deliver the festive goods

Arts and Entertainment
The cast of Downton Abbey in the 2014 Christmas special

tvReview: Older generation get hot under the collar this Christmas

Arts and Entertainment
Dapper Laughs found success through the video app Vine

comedy Erm...he seems to be back

Arts and Entertainment
Wolf (Nathan McMullen), Ian (Dan Starky), The Doctor (Peter Capaldi), Clara (Jenna Coleman), Santa Claus (Nick Frost) in the Doctor Who Christmas Special (BBC/Photographer: David Venni)

tvReview: No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Arts and Entertainment
Bruce Forsyth and Tess Daly flanking 'Strictly' winners Flavia Cacace and Louis Smith

tv Gymnast Louis Smith triumphed in the Christmas special

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Rhys says: 'I'm not playing it for laughs, but I have learnt that if you fall over on stage, people can enjoy that as much as an amazing guitar solo'
musicGruff Rhys on his rock odyssey, and the trouble with independence
Arts and Entertainment
Krysia and Daniel (Hand out press photograph provided by Sally Richardson)
How do today's composers answer the challenge of the classical giant?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
News
Shenaz Treasurywala
film
News
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Watkins as Christopher Jefferies
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Star Wars Director JJ Abrams: key character's names have been revealed
film
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams won two BBC Music Awards for Best Song and International Artist
music
Arts and Entertainment
Mark, Katie and Sanjay in The Apprentice boardroom
TV
Arts and Entertainment

Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites

Arts and Entertainment
Frances O'Connor and James Nesbitt in 'The Missing'

TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations

Arts and Entertainment
Joey Essex will be hitting the slopes for series two of The Jump

TV

Who is taking the plunge?
Arts and Entertainment
Katy Perry as an Ancient Egyptian princess in her latest music video for 'Dark Horse'

music
Arts and Entertainment
Dame Judi Dench, as M in Skyfall

film
Arts and Entertainment
Morrissey, 1988

TV
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Aren’t you glad you didn’t say that? The worst wince-and-look-away quotes of the year

    Aren’t you glad you didn’t say that?

    The worst wince-and-look-away quotes of the year
    Hollande's vanity project is on a high-speed track to the middle of nowhere

    Vanity project on a high-speed track to nowhere

    France’s TGV network has become mired in controversy
    Sports Quiz of the Year

    Sports Quiz of the Year

    So, how closely were you paying attention during 2014?
    Alexander Armstrong on insulting Mary Berry, his love of 'Bargain Hunt', and life as a llama farmer

    Alexander Armstrong on insulting Mary Berry and his love of 'Bargain Hunt'

    From Armstrong and Miller to Pointless
    Sanchez helps Gunners hold on after Giroud's moment of madness

    Sanchez helps Gunners hold on

    Olivier Giroud's moment of madness nearly costs them
    A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

    Christmas without hope

    Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
    After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

    The 'Black Museum'

    After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
    No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

    No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

    Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
    Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

    Chilly Christmas

    Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
    Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
    Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

    'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

    Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
    Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

    Ed Balls interview

    'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
    He's behind you, dude!

    US stars in UK panto

    From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

    What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect