On Sunday evening, as I was getting dinner ready for my kids, I listened to a programme on BBC Radio 4 about money laundering – the process of hiding the origin of money that’s been obtained from illegal activities by putting it into legal businesses – and the way that the City of London ends up taking receipt of billions of pounds’ worth of ill-gotten gains every year.
The main focus of the programme was on Maksim Bakiyev – the youngest son of the former President of Kyrgyzstan, Kurmanbek Bakiyev. He is wanted back in his home country, where he has already been sentenced to life in prison for embezzling millions of dollars in state funds. However, Maksim seems to have little interest in returning to Bishkek, the Kyrgyz capital, as he has been mysteriously granted British citizenship, lives in a £4-million mansion in Surrey and has invested heavily in various companies with links to the City. If the allegations against him are true, then this is corruption on an industrial scale.
If something happens on an industrial scale, it happens in a big way – on a very large scale, but interestingly the phrase is not often used to describe things that are business-related. Instead, it’s more frequently used to describe crimes – or things that people somehow see as ‘criminal’ because they think they’re bad or wrong or unfair, so hysterical newspaper articles that are angry about plans to expand Heathrow Airport might describe the building work as vandalism on an industrial scale, meaning they think it’s a deliberate attempt to damage or destroy what’s still public property. A recent report on the buying and illegal resale of tickets for concerts and football matches (by ticket touts) spoke of tickets being “snapped up and resold for profit on an industrial scale”, while many large multi-national companies have recently been accused of tax avoidance on an industrial scale!
Our new Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, keeps repeating that the UK is “open for business”. When you hear stories like these, it does make you wonder exactly what kind of business he has in mind – and who stands to benefit from it!
- Can you think of anything that’s happened on an industrial scale where you live?
- What other ways of money laundering have you heard of?
- Have you heard any stories about people embezzling money?
- What do you think the best way to tackle corruption is?
- Are ticket touts common in your country? Where?