Bottom Shekel / Pocket Guide to Money Laundering

If you show up at your bank and ask to deposit say $100,000, in cash yet, somebody might get suspicious. Here are some options.

Say you're a politician, or at least, you make the front page. You might run a labor union or be a minister, and say your business suddenly lands envelopes stuffed with lovely bills in your lap. Shekels or dollars. What on earth are you going to do? If you show up at your bank and ask to deposit say $100,000, in cash yet, somebody might get suspicious. Here are some options.

1 Make contact, directly or through a close friend, with an active business that has lively turnover in cash, for example a grocery or restaurant. Give the envelope to the business owner and get a check in return. The restaurant owner can slip the contents of the envelope into his daily turnover without raising eyebrows and you can deposit the check in your account, claiming you sold him consulting services.

2 Go, directly or through a close friend, to an insurance company branch. Ask to buy a life insurance policy and deposit your $100,000. Let a couple of months pass, cancel the policy and withdraw the money. You'll get it in the form of a check from the insurance company, and you can sail off and deposit it at your bank.

3 (a) Go, directly or through a close friend, to a money changer. Use him to make an electronic deposit of the greenbacks you hold in some bank account abroad. Money changers have a lot of techniques like that.

3 (b) Go, directly or through a close friend, to a money changer. Give him the cash dollars and get his check. You can present that check to your bank as legitimate income for some licit deal or other.

4 Through your accountant or lawyer, set up a shelf company in an offshore tax shelter somewhere in the world. Make sure you control the company's shares, though these shares aren't registered in your name, and are held in trust by your number cruncher or ambulance chaser, Esq. They have a duty to respect confidentiality or be sued and, believe me, they won't be squealing so fast. In the future, you sell the company and post a "capital gains from an asset sale." Nobody at the bank will smell a rat.

5 Go, directly or through a close friend, to a broker. Invest your cash in a stock portfolio. Sell the portfolio after a few months and deposit the money in your bank, claiming you made a killing on the market.

And these are just a few examples of the ways you can turn that red-hot envelope of cash into profit as pure as the driven snow, safely nestling in you bank account.

True, turning black money into white is called money laundering. Since Israel passed anti-money laundering laws, at least some of these options should have been blocked before you. You can't just mosey into your bank and drop a pile of steaming cash on the counter without the bank telling the Money Laundering Prohibition Authority at the Justice Ministry.

Actions via brokers, money changers and insurance companies are also supposed to be reported to the authorities. In reality, it's doubtful whether all the brokers et al comply with the letter of the law, though surely the big ones do, especially when eyeing a briefcase stuffed with wads of roubles, francs of some sort, dollars and so on.

You can still operate through a friendly eatery or offshore company, though in Europe, those options are vanishing like the glaciers. Over there, financial brokers must report every unusual action you take. The European Court of Human Rights recently rejected a Belgian Bar Association argument that divulging information forced lawyers to break customer confidence. Confidentiality, ruled the court, is confined to representation in court, not to concocting weird and unwonderful deals for the client.

Israel, however, has yet to legislate any obligation for financial brokers to report suspect deals and apparently will shortly take arrows from the European regulators for that shortfall.

One other thing. Israel still has no duty to report an unusual action by so-called PEPs, or "politically exposed person."

Israel's banks need only report on suspicious acts by a foreign PEP who slinks into a branch with a suitcase full of cash and asks to deposit it. Under the rules, the banks don't have to report an Israeli PEP doing weird things in his account.

One has to wonder why the Knesset isn't applying PEP rules to local politicians.