- Meet the Money Launderer
- Money Laundering: Know Your Banker
- Fooling the banks
- Wash Money
- Anti-Money Laundering
Humberto J. Aguilar practiced law, until he was indicted for money laundering in Federal District Court and fled to Spain where he arrested and extradited.
He entered a guilty plea to conspiracy to violate the Internal Revenue Service regulations concerning money laudering and participation in a client conspiracy to violate the importation of dangerous narcotics.
He said it was fun to try to beat the system by creating the sort of schemes that was meant to circumvent the guidelines against money laundering that were created by the financial and governmental institutions. But all that changed when the Vice-Presidential Task Force arrived and they tried to put all of us out of business. I was an attorney back then serving the cause of the clients that had the money to pay exorbitant rates to have their money laundered-what I did was to pick up and deliver and once I was through the full service law firm had done its job.
As a criminal defense lawyer I had the opportunity to participate in large-scale money laundering operations that were meant to violate the laws of the United States and to make their money work for them. I did that and I was quite good at it. The deeper question that one must ask oneself is how I can morally defend that posture or perhaps sound so cavalier about it? It is simpler than anyone would acre to guess-I could not have performed my task had it not been for the great assistance of the local and worldwide banking community and those that evolved into the “GATEKEEPERS”. Had it not been for the first line of the banks’ defense assisting in my task, I could have performed my task as I did for numerous years.
My task was quite simple in scope. Get the money (usually several million at a clip) and get it from A to Point B and have ready to eventually use it back at either point C or whenever and wherever my client wanted it move. By using any and all means possible I would create the necessary infrastructure to funnel money into the general flow of commerce and into the banking system under the guise of legitimate corporate funds and have it lose its taint of illegality and eventually have it resurfaced as investment capital.
The birth of the scheme I was working as a trial attorney defending these drug dealers at a time when the banking entities viewed the influx of money as nothing short as manna from heaven. I was welcomed at every reputable banking institution from Miami to Hong King and back to Zurich through the Isle of Jersey-not to be confused with New Jersey. I actually had a drug dealer of Cuban origin look at me and in a very serious manner tell me that he did not feel that he wanted his money in New Jersey because everyone knew that the State of New Jersey was controlled by the Mafia. Such statements don’t sound funny today but back when we were all much younger it was funny because the business was fun and that was before the killings and the birth of the Cocaine Cowboys from Colombia flew north to act as hitmen for their Cuban transporters. That was when we could enter banks in Switzerland and with the most sincerely honest face possible tell a Swiss banker that this money was clean and we wanted to use their bank because of the safety and guarantees it offered against the encroaching tax reach of the U.S.Government. We were never even questioned as to the underlying sources. We were all playing the game.
It had been a while in planning and in putting into action but what I had done was to create a false corporate world of numerous corporations around the world and with that hundreds of bank accounts under those corporations and with hundreds of letters of recommendations from bank to bank. What I created was a simple highway of well-constructed lies and well coordinated movement to entice the bankers and insurance companies that we were not only legitimate but that we were the kinds of individuals that were worth doing business with. I would never travel anywhere to open accounts and to affect movements without having letters of introductions from one banker to the next. We have to remember that it was not until the late 1980s and 1990s that the overall dangerous level of activities were viewed by the various governmental entities, such as the U.N. Convention (1988) or even the FATF (G-7) in the1990 and then that implementation of guidelines and regulations came into being. I was free to run around, invest in everything that I wanted, and use the dirtiest money around to buy up real estate in Miami or Panama or even in Uruguay or in investing in a shopping center in Medellin. Back then it was our task to know our clients (our bankers) better than they would know us.
If the business venture required using a Swiss bank to funnel two million dollars to payoff some political figure in Paris to get the sentence reduced for some individual who had been arrested with one hundred nineteen kilos and this required co-mingling funds then we would do it because it added greater credibility to the overall scheme.
We would befriend the bankers on a scale that would produce genuine friendships and that would allow us to do business as legitimate corporate entities. I was never the owner of any of the accounts and most of the time the individuals who appeared on the accounts were real and the true owners. The banks assuredly did not fathom that a known drug dealer would show his face and use his name to create a bank account. How wrong they were.
In some instances we would use third parties to cover the tracks-in one case when I set up Sunset and Sunrise Tours of Florida I used the name of several prostitutes in Panama City and actually paid them for the use of their identities. I recently had an opportunity to review the Ten Basic Steps for KYC Compliance, I must agree that if a money launderer follows these steps he would be able to convince the banker (regulators) that all is legitimate.
We would have the perfect background prepared to show nothing but clean and profitable business practices and thus provides the bank with all of the elements that it required to allow us into the door.
Most of our accounts were always in movement and the levels of funds would fluctuate but never clearing these accounts because we would maintain them open for future use.
There is no way to be able to categorize “Customer Type” – how would a bank that I have been dealing with for several years question a new customer that I was bringing into the system. Remember all I had to do was to get in early on and keep the door open at any particular bank (in Europe this works great because the “old Country” way of doing business can be used to our advantage).
Never do large-scale business with local banks that required any bank to expose itself. We never obtained local banking finance and all that we would do is use them as our holding bank for funds that arrived from clean banking sources.
As long as we had one or two crooks at any bank anywhere in the world we were safe-once you have enticed a man to be a little discreet and allow you one imperfect activity, you owned him. [But] of course, the relationship is going to cost you money. These bankers are greedy but they are not stupid.
Intermediary Accounts I have always had the most honest face when asked by the bankers if my clients were clean. In a whispered voice, I would tell them, “do you think that I would be insane enough to risk my license”? The level of sincerity must be convincing. No Banker ever Turned Me In.
The Client would be known to the banks and to the financial institutions and they would (assuredly have all of their documentation in complete order-that was my task). We would provide all of the facts and all of the requested documents to any banking entity and that would be done before any requests- – it was my task to be one step ahead of the banks. If I was questioned then I had failed to comply with my client’s needs. No amount of internal auditing would indicate that our accounts were tainted since the money was legitimately produced at some source that appeared legitimate. We never dealt with lower echelon employees. This creates terrible policy for us. If we seemed desperate and agreed to deal with a lower level clerk then we were not of the class of individual that would be above reproach.
In dealing with banks, we were always careful to cultivate relationships. One Swiss banker whose wife had been terribly ill and required his transfer to the warmer climates of the southern Mediterranean was shocked to see me show up and request his continued handling of those particular accounts in Geneva. Buying them was not all that we wanted. Owning them was what we were after. Yet, it must be understood that we never pressed a gun to anyone’s head. The natural human tendency for greed and maybe for a better life is what we preyed upon.
As an attorney, I considered that this was a game and that we were up against no one at all. We may have been brilliant in not getting caught and foolish in not understanding that we were criminals.
Books by Humberto J. Aguilar