AML Talk Show Hosted by Stephen Platt
Good afternoon, and welcome to this KYC360 AML Talk Show podcast with me, Stephen Platt. I hope that you are all safe and well during the continuing lockdown, albeit one which is being relaxed it seems with each passing week. At KYC360, we believe that to drive greater engagement with anti-money laundering, you must also raise awareness of predicate crimes, including drug trafficking. Nobody addicted, for example, to Narcos on Netflix needs to be convinced of the importance of understanding drug trafficking to understand money laundering, for example.
For some time, I have been very interested in what I regard as the unequal treatment by the criminal justice system of institutions and their senior officers as contrasted with the poorest members of society, who are unable to afford armies of lawyers. I wrote about it in my own book, Criminal Capital, because I was outraged at the lack of accountability for the last financial crisis. I just simply couldn’t reconcile that with the harshness of the way the law was treating low level street criminals. Matt Taibbi’s book, The Divide, is, in my opinion, one of the most compelling narratives on this issue. If you’re interested, I would recommend it to you. I’m not a bleeding heart liberal by any stretch of the imagination, I just believe in equality before the law. It’s a principle as important today as when it was enshrined in the Magna Carta 800 years ago.
Since the tragic death of George Floyd, the Black Lives Matter movement has, as we’ve all seen, created waves around the world, raising awareness of racial discrimination in the United States and, indeed, elsewhere. We, at KYC360, thought it would be a good time to examine the sensitive question of whether the War on Drugs is a war on the black community in the United States. Instead of corporate virtue signalling, some of which, in my opinion, has been in very bad taste, we recognize that change can only come through raising awareness and education. I hope that today’s podcast will help to inform the debate.
Here are some amazing statistics for you. The United States has 5% of the world’s population, but 25% of the world’s prison population. 80% of inmates in the United States convicted of federal drug crimes are Black or Latino.
With me to discuss this topic is my old friend, Jack Blum. Jack was a guest on the show just a couple of months ago. But, he’s agreed to chat to me about this important topic, because it’s one that he’s been closely involved in observing and seeking to influence for many years in Washington. Jack has spent a lifetime fighting financial crime and promoting human rights and equality. As a former senior staffer on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, he was Senator John Kerry’s right hand man investigating BCCI and Noriega back in the late 80s and early 90s. Since then, he has advised governments, multinationals, banks, and whistle blowers around the world.
Jack, welcome, and thank you for taking the time to talk to me again today. We all, on this side of the Atlantic, watch what’s going on Washington and throughout the United States, I think, with bewilderment. The politicisation of a virus, if you’re a Republican you don’t wear a face mask, for example, strikes me as being madness. Are we just victims here of too much BBC anti-Trump bias? Or, are things as crazy over there as they are reported to be here?
In my humble opinion, they’re as crazy as you think they are.
That notion that somehow the virus is a political stunt is beyond belief. About 40 years ago, maybe more, America’s Centres for Disease Control published a handbook on how to manage a pandemic. The handbook said that it was essential that the message to the public be consistent, that it be science based, that it be something the public could understand and accept, and that it be kept out of the hands of politicians. If ever there was a handbook that was thrown away, but proven correct, it’s that handbook on how to manage a pandemic. The degree to which important issues get politicised cannot be overstated.
Well, I’m sorry to hear that. My impression is that we’re behaving as if we’re done with the virus, but I really don’t think that the virus is necessarily done with us yet. Let’s hope I’m wrong about that.
Jack, I want to dive straight into today’s topic. The charge, as you know, is that the War on Drugs is a war on the Black community. That is part of a narrative which says that even though slavery ended in the States in 1865, the Black community continues to be disenfranchised. Post slavery, we had mass incarceration to preserve the economic system of free labour in the southern states. Then you had codification of segregation and Jim Crow, the Civil Rights Movement, the rise in drug crime and the development of very tough law and order policies, initially by Nixon and then continued by Reagan and others. A media portrayal of African Americans as predators fuelling even harsher criminal justice initiative such as the abolition of parole, three strikes you’re out, all of which, the argument goes, have had a disproportionate impact on the Black community. That’s the wider narrative. And, it’s one obviously that you’re very familiar with.
The first question I got for you is, do you believe the drug laws have a disproportionate impact on the Black community? I think that’s the obvious start point. Is the impact disproportionate?
I think there’s no question that it has a disproportionate effect. The people who are the drug users and in many cases the traffickers are of all races, all creeds, and all colours. In fact, the definition of a problem drug addict or a problem drug dealer is somebody who’s run out of money and has become a dealer, let’s say, because they have to, to get the drugs they need. The definition of an addicts who’s run out of money means that if you’re, let’s say, a commodities broker working off the floor of an exchange and you’d like a little snort of cocaine, you can step outside and buy it. Nobody much will bother you, because you’ve got the money to pay for it. It’s a quiet transaction, and the police won’t look. The time and place where they begin to look is when it’s going on in the community of colour, a community that’s somewhat underprivileged and which is heavily policed. We have to say that, yes, colour makes a huge difference in the enforcement of drug laws.
Now, is there any truth, then, in your view to the notion that drug policy is inherently racist? Or, is the impact, the disproportionate impact on the Black community just an unfortunate by-product of economics?
The analysis has to be taken in two parts. There is the drug problem, and then there is the political use of the drug problem. The drug problem, by itself, is a serious problem, but it’s a problem that’s been with civilization from the beginning. People have used substances to escape their immediate reality, probably, since the beginning of humankind, whether it’s alcohol, whether it’s marijuana, or some other substance. Around the world, people have used drugs. Societies have reacted to that use in various ways. It turns out that different drugs have different natural histories. That is to say, there’ll be a time when a particular drug is in vogue. And then, there’ll be a time of prohibition. There are all sorts of responses by governments to the problem of drug use, if it becomes a problem.
The difficulty, in the US, has been that the War on Drugs became a convenient way of talking about race. Let’s start with a proposition that a war on drugs is crazy. You can’t win a war on drugs. There will always be drugs. What you can do is control the flow to some considerable degree, and do your best to treat it as a medical problem, and limit the damage that drug use can cause.
The use of it as a political weapon is something that came about in the 1960s, when it became absolutely impossible to use the derogatory terms about people of colour in public discourse. So, there had to be some way, and these days it’s referred to as the dog whistle, although back then it was pretty clearly obviously something that the politicians were doing. Here was the problem, the Republican Party in the US really needed to take over in the South to win the votes necessary to win the presidency and to control the Senate. Until the mid 1960s, the Senate was a very divided place, but divided differently. There were Democrats who were stage right segregationists with rather terrible histories on the issue of race. There were Democratic liberals. There were Republican liberals, particularly in the Northeast, and many in the Midwest who were very much on the other side of the fence.
There was a deliberate effort on the part of the Republican Party to really flip the South and purge it of Democrats who were racist and replace them with Republicans. The way to do that was to set up a war on drugs and say, “We’re going to be tough on drugs, and we’re going to go after those criminals, and define the drug problem as a problem confined to people of colour in the inner city.” That was really a horrible decision with a horrible result.
It comes out of another proposition, which is the thing that works best in political campaigns, unfortunately, is fear. I dare say that Richard Nixon was trading on fear. The environment he started doing that in was an environment where we’d had two assassinations, Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy, both in the year 1968. Talking about a war on drugs made it really easy to talk about the question of policing, and control, and going after “crime,” and giving people in the South the idea that this guy’s really going to be tough on Black people in America.
Sorry, Jack. So, what you’re saying, just for the benefit of our audience, is that drugs became a proxy for race, almost reinforcing the idea that drug crime was principally associated with Black people. Is that essentially the point?
Absolutely. And to some degree, also, obviously with Latino people, because the drugs were coming, for the most part, from Latin American.
I guess, one very serious problem is that people began to accept the political rhetoric as a reality.
Absolutely. The other problem, of course, was this rhetorical device and political use of the War on Drugs worked, and it was continued. It was continued over a couple of generations of politicians who realized that it worked, and perpetuated it. This was a self-fulfilling kind of prophecy. Because, after a while, a population that’s been told over and over again, what we have to do is control crime in the inner city, and we need more police, and we need tougher sentences, people begin to believe the rhetoric and think that, “Good god, these Black people are really creating a problem in our society.” Well, it turns out, it was not Black people creating a problem in our society, it was political rhetoric that was creating a colossal problem in the society.
Out of this, we built, again, a prison system and an educational system that reinforced the very stereotypes that should’ve been taken down. On top of that, legislation was passed to disenfranchise people who had been convicted of crimes. Police wound up arresting and people were prosecuted for distributing and selling very minor amounts of drugs that become part of a bunch of people who went off to prison. Prison became a finishing school for people who were potential criminals. Once you were in prison and got out, you were unable to get a job, unable to join normal life, and totally discriminated against. But worst of all, unable to vote, because in most states the convicted felon is deprived of his civil rights. This was a terrible set of events that created racial stereotypes and led us down a path which has taken us to the situation we have today.
I mean, the symmetry there is, I’m sure, not lost on you or indeed our listeners, which is in 1865 America ended a system of disenfranchisement in one sense, and today if you’re denied the vote, you find yourself in disenfranchise. This is hugely problematic.
Absolutely. It’s a terrible problem, and it’s a terrible sequence of events. To underscore what’s going on, not only have we encountered the business of disenfranchising convicted felons, but that is coupled with a very serious program, at the moment, on the part of the Republican Party, to depress voter turnout. There’s been absolutely mindless and deceitful rhetoric about voter fraud, that we need more identification, and we need to make it tougher for people to get to the polls. It’s terribly deceitful and designed, again, to disenfranchise people of the bottom of the economic scale and people of colour.
Now, going back to your reference to Nixon. As you were talking, I was reminded of a quote that was attributed to his domestic policy advisor, John Ehrlichman, when he spoke. He spoke to the journalist, Dan Baum. I think it was in the early 90s. I’ve just looked it up. Ehrlichman told Dan Baum, and I quote, “The Nixon campaign in 1968 and the Nixon White House after that had two enemies, the anti-war left and Black people.” He went on, “You understand what I’m saying. We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war on Blacks, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and Blacks with heroin, and then criminalising both heavily, we could disrupt those communities.” Now, you’ll probably remember that quote. I was reminded of it as you spoke. That does, I think, pray in aid exactly what you said about your view that this was a deliberate policy.
It wasn’t a secret that it was a deliberate policy. There was a lot of talk about the Southern strategy. There was open talk about, this is the way to win elections, by people like Karl Rove. There’s no secret that this was the way to win an election. We saw that reinforced again with George H.W. Bush in the election he ran against Michael Dukakis after the Reagan Administration. There, he posted an ad showing a felon, Black, who had been released on parole by Michael Dukakis. He showed the felon in a revolving door coming out of and going back into prison in prison garb, and accusing Dukakis as having let this felon on the street. Of course, the image was a Black man in prison garb in a revolving door. It was a horrible ad, but it played exactly to the kind of racism that has been the undercurrent of Republican politics for a long time.
I mean, we’ve answered the… Or, you’ve answered the question. One, you think these laws do have disproportionate impact. Two, it’s deliberate and everybody knows it. You talk about the Southern strategy as it was. If you’re right, then the question is, why? Is the answer to the question, why, simply because it’s a vote winner?
I think it’s a vote winner and it’s a way to maintain power. What it does is it plays on fear. Instead of appealing, as all politics should, to unifying, making peace, retaining a kind of civil order, this is fear generating, going in the opposite direction. The fear will motivate people to vote, and it will keep whoever says they’re going to control what people are afraid of in power. Now, we’ve had that go on again, and again, and again in American politics. We’ve got to crack down on those people, and off we are to what I would call a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Yeah, and I guess that would go some way to answering my next question, which is, why haven’t successive Democratic administrations addressed this? I guess, you would say it’s because they can’t afford to if they want to be in power.
Well, that’s exactly right. I think the best example of that is Bill Clinton, who on one level understood how to relate to the Black community in a way that most previous presidents, I think with the exception of Jimmy Carter, didn’t know. Because he came out of Arkansas, a Southern state, and his way of talking, his tone, his cadences, all made sense to people of colour. But, this is a man, who, in his second term, confronting the fact that he’d had a terrible defeat in the congressional race, decided to take the advice of a Republican pollster and was suddenly pushing tough crime bills. We got out of that laws that were three strikes you’re out. Three convictions and you go to jail for life. A crime bill that, today, Joe Biden is apologizing for.
What happened is that Democrats caught on. They said, “Well, we won’t do it quite the same way with quite the same horrible sounding rhetoric, but we’ll do it. And, by doing it, we’ll get into power.” Once it becomes a contest of who can out racist who, we’ve got a society that’s got a hell of a problem.
Now, Jack, you referred there to the three strikes you’re out policy introduced by Clinton. I think, and you’ll correct me if I’m wrong about this, that he has apologised for it. The benefit of hindsight, he, I believe, now says it was a mistake. Could you just explain for our audience the three strikes you’re out policy? Does it apply if you’re convicted of any crime, or do you have to be convicted of three serious crimes? I mean, putting somebody in prison for the rest of their life-
It’s three felonies, but remember there are all kinds of felonies. A felony is anything that carries a sentence over one year in prison. So, relatively low-grade criminal activity would then lead to someone being in prison for life. Now, there were also on the state level-
Sorry, Jack, sorry to interrupt you before you go on. When you say life, that means something different in the UK. People get sentenced to life, they’re out after 15 years, some of them. In America, life means life.
Life means life, life without parole, and some people have languished in jail for 50 years on the basis of rather minor felonies. If you were caught with possession of more than a certain amount of cocaine, you could easily be charged with a felony possession with intent to deal. Even if you were simply a low-grade dealer, desperately selling the stuff to keep yourself in supply, and wind up in prison for life, which is a horrible consequence.
By the way, I was starting to say that in a number of jurisdictions at the state level, there were horribly punitive laws that were passed that gave very long prison terms to people who were caught dealing. There was one particularly egregious problem which was the prison terms both at the federal and state level meant you would go to jail for a much longer time if you were caught with crack cocaine as opposed to powder cocaine. Now, anyone who knew what was going on in the drug world understood that crack cocaine was being used by people principally of colour, because they had less money and the crack cocaine gave you a better high for less money. The powder cocaine, on the other hand, was routinely a party favour at parties in California among the entertainment industry people and would show up in wealthy suburbs where people felt, no problem here, we can use the cocaine. The sentences, if caught, were pretty low, but nobody much focused on it. It was all the crack cocaine. The public rhetoric was pretty awful.
That’s fascinating. I want to come back to the sort of law enforcement effort in a moment. For now, can we just go back to this point you were making about three strikes. Presumably, the three strikes law is what’s partly responsible for what I understand has been a 500% increase in the US prison population over the past 40 years. I mean, it’s just a remarkable statistic.
Well, that’s part of what’s going on, but there’s more to the story. Over time, as the prison population became increasingly people of colour, the prison system itself became increasingly punitive. By that, I mean no education for people who are incarcerated, very little medical care, prisons that were wildly overcrowded, and really quite inhumane. That was something that evolved during the same period, a product of this sort of same racial nonsense.
Now, what we know, if you know anything about criminology, is that if people get education the chances that after having committed a crime they’ll go out and commit another one go way down. The college I went to, Bard College, set up something called The Prison Initiative, where people incarcerated, even for very long terms, were given the opportunity to take college courses and earn a college degree. The program has been wildly successful. It’s in the prisons in New York State. The recidivism rate, that is the number of people who’ve gone back to jail having gone through the program, is something like 3% or 4%. In general, the recidivism rate is more like 60% or 70%. That tells you a lot about what’s happened in the prison system and why the population stays so large. The offenders keep coming back, because they have no other options, and they don’t know enough to find another option.
Yeah. And, as you say, self-fulfilling in the sense that in order to demonstrate to voters that you’re delivering on these tough law and order policies, you’ve got to bang people up and put them in prison. You got to keep delivering on that. As you once said to me, not unlike drugs, I mean, drugs are a rare thing that which is to say that they deliver as advertised. In some ways, policies that appeal to voters who are racist have got to deliver as well. It’s absolutely incredible really what you’re telling us. Now, tell-
Sorry, go on.
I just wanted to add that, that problem of the drug problem, that is what happens when people become addicted, is illustrated best by what went on in Pakistan during the war in Afghanistan. Now, there, people have said, “Well, the solution to this is legalize the drugs,” and so forth and so on. Well, we had, in Pakistan, defacto legalization, because there was little or no law enforcement regarding drugs. After all, the drugs were coming from Afghanistan, refined in Pakistan. But, the drug addiction rates in Pakistan went through the roof, because heroin was dirt cheap. Middle and upper class Pakistanis were particularly upset by it, because the people who wound up taking the drugs where their children.
I find that fascinating and a fascinating explanation of how the drug problem can infest a society. But then, what’s the solution? The solution clearly is not, let’s say, ignoring the problem. It’s coming up with treatment, education, a whole variety of ways of getting people to understand you wreck your life if you use these drugs.
Yes, yeah. Now, Jack, turning back to the law enforcement question. You referred, a few moments ago, to the targeting of crack cocaine typically used by poor Blacks rather than powder cocaine used by middle class Whites. Is it your opinion, and is there any evidence to suggest, that law enforcement does in fact spend a disproportionate amount of resource targeting lower level drug crime rather than the high level. For example, these sentences… Well, no, sentencing’s a different question. The application of law enforcement resources, is it disproportionate?
Of course. Here, you should understand and this is something that should be obvious after the recent events in Atlanta, about 90% of all law enforcement decisions are made at the street level, which is to say the cop could decide, hey, this isn’t worth bothering with and could very well have left the gentlemen free to walk home, which was two blocks away. He wasn’t resisting. He parked his car happily in the parking lot. They decided they were going to arrest him. Well, that is the kind of problem that comes out of the street level decision making by police.
Let’s dig into how those decisions by police get made and why they get made. The way you get promoted, if you’re a cop, if you’re a DEA agent, if you’re a customs agent, is by the number of arrests you’ve made and the amount of money and/or drugs you’ve seized. The more arrests you make and the more you seized, the better off your career is. The truth of the matter is, if you’re in an environment like that with those incentives, you go for the low hanging fruit. You don’t spend a lot of time in a major investigation to track down the major players, to shut off the major flow, to go after the big money laundering operations. You bust people at the street level, because they’re not very smart. They’re easy to round up. And, it’s out of the movie, Casablanca, round up the usual suspects. It makes life a lot easier for the street level law enforcement people.
To get them to get out of that mode and do other things is really hard. Not very long ago, this comes to the issue of money laundering and how that works, I was at a training sessions for people in the US who were working on problems of money laundering, and asset recovery, and similar issues. There were a couple of agents from ICE, which is what customs used to be called, or is now called, pardon me. Anyway, they were talking about how they were so successful in collaring people who were taking cash for drugs and taking it to the bank. They thought a seizure of $10,000 in cash was a big deal.
My reaction is, why are you guys wasting your time on such petty crime? You should be focusing on what bank has it gone to and is that a consistent pattern? Have there been other people who’ve taken the $10 grand-plus to the bank? And then, why haven’t you gone after the bank? The answer to that is, too much work. The bank will have good lawyers. The case will take a while to try, so forth and so on. For the enforcement people, it’s go after the low hanging fruit and make your career.
That’s absolutely fascinating. It is relevant, I think, to many of our listeners, because what law enforcement does with the intelligence that it receives from them, through suspicious activity as suspicious transaction reporting, feeds in, I think, to some of what you’re saying. Do you think that the way in which law enforcement use the intel from industry is part of this problem?
Obviously. There is marvellous intel available if someone wants to use it. The problem is that, for the most part, that information has been used to bolster an existing case. If someone is arrested on the street, there’ll be a check to see if that person has turned up in suspicious activity reporting. Typically, there can be suspicious activity reports that take months, if not years, for people to read and follow up on. There have been some spectacular cases in the US where there were repeated, and I do mean repeated, like eight, 10, 12 reports that have been filed, before anybody took notice and actually did anything.
Yeah, that’s absolutely fascinating. What a lot of people would say, Jack, is, “Look, you’re just a diehard old liberal. The impacts on the Black community of the drug policies of the last 40 or 50 years, this is all a product of unintended consequences.” That’s what people on the opposite side of this argument, I guess, would say. How would you respond to that?
Well, if you spend generations educating people as to what the problem is and how you’re going to solve it, and that education is an education that leads us to the kind of things that we’ve been witnessing, it ought to be clear that we’ve got to change the way we talk, the way we look at the problem, and see what happened, and actually change outcomes. I said it before, I’ll say it again, a lot of what’s gone on is a self-fulfilling prophecy. A lot of it self-reinforcing. It’s the business of, you’ve been to jail, you probably will never have much of a career. You certainly won’t have an education. The only thing left to you will be to try again and go back to jail and start all over. It’s something that becomes ingrained and self-fulfilling.
There’s talk about poverty in the inner city. Well, if you have no options, of course, the next generation is going to be stuck in poverty. Now, it may sound to people like that’s a diehard liberal speaking. I’m not at all in favour of crime, and I think you have to throw the book at various criminals. But, let me just say that I’ve watched, for example, that criminal behaviour, confessed criminal behaviour, of very large banks. And, I’m talking here, specifically, let’s say about HSBC, which confessed to all manner of offenses in the area of money laundering and money laundering control, for which there have been a number of fines, which have amounted to a parking ticket. If those crimes had been committed at the street level, whoever committed them would probably be in one of our super max prisons for the rest of their lives.
It’s very, very, interesting. One of our other recent guests on the talk show said something along the lines of, “Nothing’s a problem if it can be dealt with by money.” There, he was, of course, referring to the fines that are being and have been levied against banks, which are a fraction, in some cases, of their annual profits. There’s a consistency there between what you’re both saying.
Now, let’s try to inject a degree of optimism in this. I know that, that can be difficult, particularly against a background of recent events. How can this change? I mean, there is one positive, Jack, I suppose, which is that there is a new generation for whom race is not a meaningful notion. They’re not going to be as susceptible to seduction by what you refer to as dog whistle policies and politics. Do you hold out much hope for the difference that that generation can make, and are we likely to see drug policy and the enforcement thereof begin to change?
I’m quite optimistic that change is in the wind. The generation coming along is one that doesn’t care about race, has figured out that the difference among people based on colour of skin is de minimis. It really is a tiny fraction of our genetic makeup. Thank you because of all of these gene tests, we all understand that most of us are a product of a lot of different streams of populations from different parts of the world. My son’s generation and people younger are perfectly happy working with people of any variety, any race, any colour. The question is, can they do the job and what kind of people are they? Which is how it ought to work.
Now, I think that the rhetoric and the whole approach of using race has hit the wall. By that, I mean that we’re in a situation in the US where, in some states like California, we’re very close to having a minority majority, which is to say that the White folks that people like Donald Trump appeal to are a minority of the voters. The only way those people can stay in power and perpetuate what they’ve been doing is to try to suppress the vote of the majority. I think it will be a combination of two things. It’s majority minority. By the way, there’s been a study commissioned by the Republican Party after their defeat by Barack Obama to figure out what the future of the party looked like. It said we’re heading in the direction of a population that’s more mixed, and we better start talking to that population. We had this, as you’ve all seen, Donald Trump who took that study and obviously threw it in the trash, along with how to handle a pandemic, the study on how to handle a pandemic.
Coming back to my point, I think that the race issue has run its course. I think that the demonstrations you’re seeing now tell us that the future is going to be a whole lot better than it’s been, despite all of this effort to stir the pot.
Yes. And the suppression of the vote, as you refer to it, in order to maintain that minority majority, that tracks back to what you were saying about the disenfranchisement, taking away the votes of people who’ve been convicted of crimes. Also, something else that you referred to early, which was making voter registration more difficult.
Absolutely. Now, here’s something that illustrates my point, I think. The people of Florida who voted in a referendum to do away with the destruction of civil rights for people who had been convicted of a felony but served their time and were now free to go, they said those people should have the vote. Well, instead of actually implementing what was voted on by the people of Florida, the Republican governor and legislature turned around and did everything they could to put barriers in front of the people who were covered by that referendum and try to prevent them from actually registering and voting. I think that’s scandalous. But, that’s the way it’s been in Florida.
As I said, trying to inject a degree of optimism, but-
I’m optimistic. I’m telling you, this is on the road to change. All you have to do is look at the composition of the demonstrations all around the United States. These are not Black demonstrators raising an issue that is a Black issue. These are demonstrations that include all races, all kinds of people, all sorts of age groups. I think people have had it with the kind of politics that focus on fear and race. Really, what we’ve been taught and it’s part of the lesson of this pandemic, that we have a lot of other things in this society that we better pay attention to, and that politicians who try to play race as their issue are not going to make it. We have to focus on what’s real. What’s real right now are things like, all right, how do we handle the pandemic globally? Do we really want to tear up the World Health Organization?
The obvious other questions are, what are we going to do about global warming? Right now, major studies in the United States are threatened with complete destruction. Miami could be going under water any time. New Orleans went under water. The studies that are out there say we’ll have to spend billions of dollars to deal with it. People know that. And, they really, really, want those problems dealt with. They want people to stop talking about race to divert one’s attention from the problems that aren’t being dealt with and the problems that aren’t being solved. Now, there’ll be political differences about how to solve the problems, that we all understand. But, the focus has to be on real problems, not trumped up idiocy.
Jack, that’s as always, from your wonderful turn of phrase. Personally, I found that one of the most disturbing aspects of the reaction to the death of George Floyd, which obviously sparked the recent demonstrations, was the response that somehow the death and cause of death was less egregious because he was high on drugs. I just find that sort of reaction incredibly distasteful. It is a reaction, which in some ways is born out of exactly the sorts of stereotypes that have been fuelled by some of the policies that we’ve been discussing today.
Sure. The question is, even if he had taken some drugs, and there was a blood test that showed maybe he’d taken drugs, does that really lead you to giving him the death penalty on the spot? I don’t think so. If he did have that in his system and he was a little bit unruly or upset, he hadn’t committed a crime. Nothing had happened. What were those cops doing? It made no sense at all. Again, it’s police who think, maybe I’ll score an arrest or whatever, and it’ll be a career builder. That’s the kind of thinking that has to be changed.
Yes. Now, there’s no evidence, as far as I’m aware, Jack, you may put me right on this, but there’s no evidence, of course, that the response by the financial services industry to its AML obligations is in any way racist. There’s not evidence that it’s reacted to in a racist way. I guess, the closest we get to this being of relevance to the financial services community, other than of course raising awareness of drug trafficking and drug policy, is the use to which law enforcement puts the intel that it receives from that industry.
I quite agree. I mean, there’s no indication at all that any of this is tied to race. What is clear is that we have some other issues that have to be dealt with globally, and this is something that numbers of groups have been talking about, which is ending the notion of the ability to hide money outside of the system in ways that prevent law enforcement from understanding what’s going on. But now, we’re talking about larger issues of financial crime, which really have to be addressed, because some of those issues are of monumental importance to the society.
The further along we go, the more we understand that we’re looking at concentrations of wealth, which for most of human history can only be matched by people like Louis XIV, or one of the pharaohs who thought they owned not only the country but everyone in it and all the money in the country, so they could go off and build a palace. That concentration of wealth does not come to a happy end. We have to really pay attention to how that has come about, and to what degree financial crime, or if not crime, breaking of regulations has brought that about.
Yes, yes, I see that. Well, Jack, as ever, we could easily carry on talking for hours. But, I’m afraid that we are up to our time limit. Thank you, on behalf of all of our listeners and KYC360 members, for taking time out of what I know is a busy schedule to share your thoughts on a sensitive, but I think really, really, important topic. If you’d like to plug into Jack’s expertise, all listeners will receive an email with Jack’s contact details. I could tell you from experience that there are few more able lawyers in the field of financial crime prevention. Jack really is held in the highest esteem by many policy makers and officials in Washington DC.
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