11 April 2010

Money Laundering

"I washed the clothes in your washing basket" she said, so I thanked her.
She repeated the statement and I could tell by the look in her eyes that this was more than a visiting girlfriend who was bored and helping with laundry, something was wrong.

It turned out that in addition to washing my clothes she had also managed to wash £1000 in 10 and 20 pound notes. The money was to pay for my new van and had been rolled up in a bundle and hidden in the pocket of a pair of shorts at the bottom of the basket. Living in Liverpool did that to you. I can only imagine the shock of opening the washing machine and finding the drum filled with cash. This was 1993 and a grand was a lot of money back then! So we made a washing line in my bedroom and the money dried out fine although the phosphorous in the washing powder made the notes glow under the UV lights that were popular in shops for detecting forgeries at the time.

I had a good friend in Liverpool at the time called Dave. Dave was an awesome character, frighteningly intelligent and also very unique. He had dropped out of school at 15 and spent a big chunk of the 70's stoned. He figured everything out from first principals and could fix anything from TVs to lorry gearboxes. He was totally disinterested in wealth and there were a constant stream of people at his house, getting him to fix all sorts of, which he always managed and never charged them for.

This was Liverpool and while Dave never did anything illegal, in fact he had a very strong moral code, he did end up being involved with all sorts of extremely "interesting" people. Often because they needed problems solving and the usual options were not available to them.

So over a beer I jokingly told him about the "money laundering" and he retorted with a much better tale...

At sometime in the early 80's a guy had turned up at his house and needed some money laundering, literally. A few years prior the guy had come upon £25000, presumably not through legal means, because he had buried it in the woods for safe keeping. When he came back to dig it up, he got a nasty surprise. A badger had got there first, burrowed into his stash and made a cosy den in the cash. After a brief and bloody engagement with the animal he extracted the remains of his loot, the only problem was that it stank. Horrendously!

What to do? When you have tried everyone else and you have nowhere else to turn, contact Dave! So he turned up on Dave's doorstep with a binbag full of very smelly money and asked for help. Always a man for a challenge, Dave invited him in. Over the next few weeks they tried everything, they washed it by hand, they put it through the washing machine, they tried various chemicals to neutralise or even just mask the stench but nothing really worked. In the end they broke it down into small bundles of £500 and went to every building society and bank in town dressed as scrap metal merchants and opened accounts. You can only imagine the response from the well dressed counter staff as they had to count piles of freshly washed, but strangely odorous cash. But it worked, or at least it should have. The postscript was that the witless owner of the cash promptly forgot the details of half of the accounts, including the false name he'd used and where he'd put the money so most of it is still sitting in unused accounts from building societies, half of which no longer exist.

He probably would have been better off leaving it with the badger!

A whole new dimension on the term money laundering

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