- 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 was arrested and deported. He entered a guilty plea to conspiracy to violate the Internal Revenue Service regulations concerning money laundering 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 meant to circumvent the guidelines against money laundering that the financial and governmental institutions made. 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 cash 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 meant to violate the laws of the United States and make their money work for them. I did that, and I was pretty good at it. The more profound question one must ask oneself is how I can morally defend that posture or perhaps sound so cavalier about it. It is more straightforward than anyone would care to guess. I could not have performed my task had it not been for the excellent 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 it as I did for numerous years.
My task was quite simple in scope. Get the money (usually several million at a clip), get it from A to Point B, and have it ready to eventually use it back at Point C or whenever and wherever my Client wants it to move. By using any means possible, I would create the necessary infrastructure to funnel money into the general flow of commerce and the banking system under the guise of legitimate corporate funds and have it lose its taint of illegality and eventually resurface as investment capital.
At 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 of 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 had a drug dealer of Cuban origin look at me and solemnly tell me that he did not feel he wanted his money in New Jersey because everyone knew that the Mafia controlled the State of New Jersey. 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 the planning and putting into action. Still, I had created a false corporate world of numerous corporations around the world, and with that, hundreds of bank accounts under those corporations and hundreds of letters of recommendation from bank to bank. I created 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 also 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 introduction 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 was 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 I wanted, and use the dirtiest money to buy real estate in Miami, Panama, Uruguay, or support shopping centers in Medellin. It was our task back then 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 pay off 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, allowing 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 charges were confirmed as the actual 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 paid them for using 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 can 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 provide the bank with all the elements required to allow us into the door.
Most of our accounts were always in movement, and the funds would fluctuate, but we never cleared these accounts because we would keep them open for future use.
There is no way to categorize “Customer Type” – how would a bank I have been dealing with for several years question a new customer 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 require any bank to expose itself. We never obtained local banking finance; all we would do is use them as our holding bank for funds 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 will 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 ask them, “Do you think 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 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 requested documents to any banking entity, which would be done before any requests- – it was my task to be one step ahead of the banks. If questioned, I 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 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 prey upon.
As an attorney, I considered this a game and that we were against no one. We may have been brilliant in not getting caught and foolish in not understanding that we were criminals.
Books by Humberto J. Aguilar