Money Laundering Regulations

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Here is another extract from Due Diligence. Have you ever had a similar experience to Jenny?

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As I queue in line at the bank, an officious lady with hair slightly too blonde and lipstick definitely too pink accosts me. She is carrying a clip board and wearing a navy blue uniform with the bank logo on its breast.

‘Can I help you?’ she demands busily. Her manner is brusque and unhelpful, in direct contrast to her words.

‘Oh.’ I am taken aback at first, deep in my own guilty thoughts. Having grabbed the bundle of cash this morning I decide to open a bank account with it during my lunch break, a sole account, one that Tim is unaware of, my account just for me and my future. It seems a safer place to keep the twenty grand and as I stand here excitedly I wish I’d brought it all with me.

‘Can I help you?’ she asks again and looks aggressively at her clip board as if seeking some justification for all this.

‘I want to open an account,’ I meekly reply at last.

‘An account?’ she repeats loudly. ‘Do you already have an account with us?’ At first hearing, the question appears to be nonsensical.

‘No, no, I don’t have an account. I want to start one,’ I explain.

‘You don’t bank with us?’ she demands, as if I’ve committed a cardinal sin.

‘No, but I want to.’

‘What sort of account?’

‘I don’t know, what sorts are there? Just a normal, everyday current account, I suppose.’

There is a look in her eye that makes me feel even more like a criminal than when I came in here.

She bustles off and returns with some forms.

‘Here.’ She thrusts them into my hand. ‘Complete these then hand them in at the reception desk.’ She indicates a large lady in a uniformed blouse that isn’t quite managing to contain everything it’s meant to.

I breathe a sigh of relief and use one of the pens on a chain to write my particulars on the form. The questions are impertinent, but I persevere and put the thing on the desk hoping to get away in time to buy myself a sandwich.

‘Passport, driver’s licence and utility bill,’ the large lady intones.

‘I beg your pardon?’

‘Passport, driver’s licence and utility bill,’ she repeats. ‘You need to have proof of identity to open an account, passport, driver’s licence and utility bill, that’s what you need.’

I fish about in my handbag, pull out my driver’s licence.

‘Here,’ I say, ‘it’s got a photo and my address. That should do.’

‘We need a utility bill and a passport,’ she repeats. ‘It’s money laundering regulations.’

‘I haven’t got my passport with me,’ I say.

‘Can’t you go back and get it?’ she asks.

‘No,’ I reply. ‘I’m only on my lunch break, it’s at home.’

‘You’ll have to bring it tomorrow,’ she says.

I take out the money from my purse and put it on the counter with my form.

‘Can I pay this in now, then, I don’t want to be carrying it around. I’ll bring in my passport tomorrow.’

‘Oh.’ She looks at the bundle of twenty pound notes as if it were one of Toby’s soiled nappies. There is a hush. A silence seems to descend on the whole bank. Even the unhelpful lady with the clip board has disappeared, presumably to stalk people elsewhere. The plump lady gives me a conspiratorial look and whispers, ‘Not cash, love.’  I could barely hear her words. ‘At least, not a big wad of cash like that.’

I look puzzled because I am puzzled. This is a bank after all; they should be used to handling money.

‘You’ll get a visit,’ she hisses. ‘Does your husband know you have this money?’

I am shocked to the core by her inference and can’t think of a suitable response. ‘It’s all right, dear.’  I must look pathetic because she has started to patronise me in a serious way now. ‘We’re not allowed to tell people,’ but she does anyway, ‘large amounts of cash get reported, then you get a visit from the police.’

She stops whispering, then shovels the money and the form into an envelope that has the bank’s address conveniently printed on it, with a square in the top right corner that helps you to position the stamp in the event that you need to post it back to them.

I get out of there quickly, trying not to run and managing to resist screaming until I’m well away.

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We live in a strange world, one where it’s assumed that any cash we might have is derived from criminal sources unless we can prove otherwise. Guilty unless we can prove ourselves innocent. It’s a harsh reality that Jenny Parker faces as she’s plunged into ever more desperate circumstances.

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An Offer You Can’t Refuse

Newcastle

Here is an extract from the beginning of Due Diligence, the first Jenny Parker novel. When you’ve read it, let me know what you think Jenny should have done differently.

As I sit on the edge of the giant bed alone at last in the functional tidiness of my Travel Lodge room, the feeling of vague unease I had after first examining Associated Composites’ accounts has grown into a realisation that there is something very wrong. Every attempt I make to get to the bottom of things is met with ill-disguised fudging and at this rate of progress I could be here for a long time. I really do need to get home tomorrow; I’m concerned about what’s happening there.

Tim tells me all is well, Toby has been a good boy; he has eaten all his tea and he went to bed at the right time and is sleeping now. Even over the phone I register my husband’s insincerity, he might as well be Sullivan or O’Rourke, but I have to comfort myself with belief.

I imagine a world where I no longer have to deal with Tim and for an instant I feel a lightness – which evaporates quickly as all the thoughts crowd back in about Toby needing a father and how I couldn’t manage financially without Tim.

A firm rapping on my door jolts me back to the here and now. There’s only one person who knows my whereabouts and that’s Paul. Our arrangement is to meet for dinner at eight, it’s only seven fifteen and I’m sitting in my underwear looking forward to a relaxing shower. A tide of anger tempts me to shout, ‘Fuck off and leave me alone,’ but instead an inane, ‘Who is it?’ actually emerges.

A soft voice with a disarming accent replies. ‘It is I, Giuseppe Casagrande. My apologies for disturbing you, Signora Parker.’

My heart beats faster in shock, I peer through the tiny peephole and a distorted version of Casagrande is indeed on my doorstep.

‘Wait, one moment.’ I cast around for something to wear, quickly dress and open the door. He walks in majestically and sits down on the chair by the desk. He is alone, dressed in a dark blue suit now, looking even more expensively elegant. I realise that I felt compelled to admit him; refusing him entry was something I didn’t consider. Now he is here I feel my discomfort increasing and wonder if I should have sent him away. After all, I am a vulnerable woman alone in a hotel room.

‘Thank you for seeing me.’ He waves to encompass the room. ‘And in such unconventional surroundings. I fear you might find me not entirely professional.’

He smiles to reveal perfectly white, perfectly even teeth. I wonder whether they’re his own. I also wonder what he would possibly want with me. His manner seems more assured now and less disturbing than I experienced at the office. There is a cool charm, the air of a man operating in his own element, performing work that he is good at and comfortable with. The thought that this might be rape or murder is easily dismissed. His suit is far too expensive for him to be engaging in anything messy.

‘I am asking for your help, your assistance, Signora Parker. The people I represent require the takeover to proceed smoothly. It is very important to them. It is not something that they can allow to fail and it is very close, practically complete: a done deal as you say.’

I begin to mentally phrase my queries – what people? Why do they want it so much? Why me? How can I possibly be of any help? – but Casagrande’s tight manner and precise economy of words convince me that this is no question and answer session. He is here to speak, I am supposed to listen and, I feel a pang of worry at this, agree to do whatever he wants. He places a thick document case on the desk. It’s black leather and blends in comfortably with the general opulence of his attire.

‘Here, this is for you, an indication of our serious nature and good intentions. I am sure you will find its contents convincing. All you need do is make sure that your firm delivers a positive report on Composites, something that says that a thorough check has been made and that all is as it should be. Something that will smooth the process of the transaction.’

He pushes the leather case towards me and stands up. A sudden realisation of what the case might contain grabs my stomach. Of course it could be some of the extra documentation that Paul has requested but I have my doubts. Then excitement grips me and I can hardly stop myself from zipping it open and checking out my suspicions. In the presence of Casagrande this seems inappropriate, almost insulting, and I resist. As he turns for the door I manage to voice my uncertainty.

‘Wait. I don’t know how I can help you. It’s not up to me; it will have to be a partner that signs off the due diligence on your business. I’m only an accountant, I don’t think I can help.’

There is a stern look on his face as he turns towards me.

‘Signora Parker, let me explain. Where I come from there are two kinds of people. In the north, if you do not do what is asked of you then a member of your family is taken and pieces of them are sent to you until you do what you are asked. In the south, if you don’t do what you are asked, then you are killed. You need to be aware that the people I represent are from the south.’

With that he opens the heavy door and leaves me standing in numb incomprehension until the fearful implications begin to sink in. I no longer have any desire to open the case. It can only bring certainty to the situation I am in. I lie down on the bed and close my eyes hoping to wake up to find the world the place it was before Casagrande showed up.

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photo credit: yewenyi via photopin cc

Letting Go

Letting go can be difficult. But it is the key to happiness.

Let me explain what I mean.

As we grow up, we get lots of ideas stuck in our heads. These images and voices determine our lives and control our feelings. The biggest influences often contain the word ‘ought.’ Things ought to be better, I ought to have a better life/body/partner/job etc. etc. You get my drift. I’m already thinking this blog ought to be better but what the hell, I’ve started so I’ll persevere a bit longer.

Take away the voice that says ‘ought’ and what’s left? A realisation of how things are. Of how I am, of how the world is. And none of those things are the way I planned, expected or desired, maybe. So what do I do? I wish for something better. It’s only natural.

If, however, I can let go of all that, and come back to what is, a very powerful thing happens. I enjoy the moment.

Then another ‘ought’ pops up and off I go again. Usually it’s the feeling that I should to be doing something I don’t want to do and stop wasting time being happy.

It’s this constant conflict that makes us humans so interesting. There’s always something that we want that we’ve not got, there’s always that pot of gold at the end of our rainbow.

In Due Diligence, Jenny Parker has little opportunity for letting go. Her troubles come thick and fast, she’s either falling into a dark hole or climbing up the slippery slope. That’s what makes for an exciting book.

For the rest of us, let’s hope for a quieter, more gentle way of being that we can savour as we go.

Here’s another review of Due Diligence:

5.0 out of 5 stars Great debut,

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This review is from: Due Diligence (a fast moving crime thriller) (Kindle Edition)

A great debut novel that transported me back to Manchester; its landscape, people and seedy underbelly. The poor protagonist has a seriously bumpy ride in parts but she gives as good as she gets, especially as the story unfolds. She has the makings of a sort of suited femme fatale if she continues to develop in this way…

There were enough twists to hold my attention, and the sudden quiet-to-violent dynamics brought to mind the early films of Takeshi Kitano which is always a good thing.

Thumbs up!


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photo credit: symphony of love via photopin cc