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How It Affects You: Financial Surveillance in Action How It Affects You: Financial Surveillance in Action

How it affects you:
Financial surveillance in action

Financial espionage has quietly entered our lives. While you might not have noticed, an informant may have noticed you.

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The FATF's recommendations to combat money laundering are translated into national law in different ways around the globe. There are, however, sinister similarities.

Mechanisms for the systemised collection of information in the financial sector operate under the direction of a centralised national agency that analyses the collected data and liases with other govermental departments, including the tax office.

Financial Intelligence Units

National Financial Intelligence Units (FIU) oversee compliance with the FATF's guidelines. Many FIUs have created such broad definitions for unusual and suspicious activity that local bankers or other financial professionals may allow their own prejudices to become part of the legal process.

For, in some countries, the failure to identify a "money launderer" brings with it the possibility of jail time by virtue of the crime of aiding and abetting, so the rule is "when in doubt, report".

Suspicious Transaction Reports

Actual reporting is usually accomplished through so-called "Suspicious Transaction Reports" (STR), which are forwarded to the Financial Intelligence Unit, whose task it is to then scrutinise the information and liaise with the police, internal authorities and the tax office.

National Financial Intelligence Units receive vast amounts of data every year -- no doubt an invaluable source of information for those whose mission is to monitor the financial affairs of the public.

It should be noted that this form of financial surveillance costs the taxpayer and the financial industry a fortune in administration costs every year.

Moreover, statistics have shown that the system is ineffective in the fight against serious crime. The few amateur money launderers that do get caught every year are typically turned into high-profile media "success stories", to help justify the existence of the surveillance network whose actual purpose differs from its stated one.

Money laundering: The crime
without an offence?

The FATF has, just like the OECD, turned the normal understanding of legality and illegality on its head. Strictly speaking, "money laundering" cannot occur without an underlying criminal offence whose proceeds are being laundered.

However, the existence (or otherwise) of any underlying crime seems to be of no consequence to the FATF: owning large amounts of cash, together with a whole range of other "suspicious actions" like banking offshore, can now result in asset confiscation and prosecution.

If you cannot account for your wealth or your actions with it you are guilty of "money laundering", without proof or actual existence of criminal origin. This is on the law books in a number of countries and is also on the way in the mother of democracies and the home of common law -- the United Kingdom.

What happened to due process and the assumption of innocence before facts prove otherwise?

Has someone reported on you?

Maybe. Have you wired money to an offshore bank account? Received money from an officially blacklisted jurisdiction, or an unofficially blacklisted bank? Had too much cash? Attempted to buy a high-value item? Upset your local bank teller?

The fact is that you will only find out when it is too late. It will then be up to you to prove your actions were within the law; thanks to the FATF, the reverse burden of proof applies. Proving that all was above board is a task made even more difficult by the deliberate strategy of confusion between tax avoidance and tax evasion.

There are some who might believe that these Stalinist tactics could never happen in their home town -- they would be wrong. Financial surveillance is in operation almost everywhere.

The FATF, under the direction of its masters at the OECD, has succeeded in creating an atmosphere of suspicion, fear and financial espionage.

Welcome to an un-free and unfair world, where the state has got you exactly where it wants you: diligently propping up its own fiscal inadequacies via your wallet.


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