City Law Firms Investigated over Drug Cartel Money Laundering
Marks, Kathy, The Independent (London, England)
SIX MAJOR City of London law firms are being investigated on suspicion of laundering profits from drug trafficking, gun-running and contract killings by international racketeers including Colombian cocaine barons and the Mafia.
The firms, which include household names in the City, are working as fronts for organised crime, according to the National Criminal Intelligence Service. They are suspected of laundering money for clients that include crime syndicates in eastern Europe, Italy and the US, British gangs and the Colombian cartels.
An NCIS spokesman yesterday declined to identify them, but said: "They are well-known, allegedly respectable City of London firms." Police sources said arrests were imminent. They said the alleged laundering was being carried out by individual solicitors, rather than as a corporate operation. One source said: "It is a case of one or two, or maybe more solicitors within the firms being involved. We are not saying that the firms are institutionally corrupt from top to bottom, although the principals in some firms may know what is going on." The lawyers involved have allegedly set up complex financial arrangements to disguise the origin of the "dirty" money. They are believed to contribute significantly to a flourishing industry that has made London a global laundering centre. The legal profession's suspected links with international crime were first disclosed by Detective Chief Inspector Simon Goddard, head of NCIS's organised and economic crime unit, in an interview with The Lawyer, the trade magazine. Det Ch Insp Goddard said: "These firms are actively working on behalf of organised crime. They know who their clients are and how their clients make their money, and they know it is not from a legitimate activity. This money represents heroin and other hard drugs on the streets of London. It represents vice money." The laundered money is allegedly wired from the country of origin, and deposited by solicitors in a client account in London in order to give it an air of legitimacy. …