My daughter, Mel, once knew a girl called Veronica (not her real name). They met at uni and shared a student flat together. One weekend, Mel went to stay with Veronica’s folks. They lived in a posh part of town and had a beautiful house.
Mel got on well with them. Dad was always joking and telling tales. But a dark cloud hung over him. He had competitors who were jealous of his success and determined to wreck his business. That weekend, one of his nightclubs was firebombed and two of his laundrettes were trashed.
I had problems reconciling nightclubs with laundrettes. They give endless trouble and I could think of no good reason why a nightclub owner would want a string of them. A malicious thought entered my head. Perhaps the laundrettes were laundering money. I put the idea to Mel and she was horrified. Veronica’s dad couldn’t possibly be doing anything like that.
At this stage, I need to say a few words about money laundering. It’s what happens when dirty money from illegal operations is fed down one channel and made to reappear, lily white, when it emerges at the other end. There are many ways of doing it and the thought of dirty money being laundered in a laundrette was too good to miss.
I made the money laundering remark as a joke and soon forgot about it. Mel didn’t. Veronica was a nice girl but that didn’t mean her amusing father wasn’t up to tricks that ran foul of the law. She made enquiries and learnt he was facing criminal charges, which was very distressing for Veronica.
I mentioned the case to a contact in the CIB (Criminal Investigation Bureau) and he remarked that, on occasions, his people checked the electricity bills of certain businesses, such as laundrettes, to see if their power usage could be reconciled with their stated earnings. When huge discrepancies emerged they knew they had a suspect.
The profit from illicit drugs is so huge that some traffickers don’t mind sacrificing part of it to the tax office. It’s the cost of having clean money to invest in the legitimate side of their business.