One of my friends is an artist and she tells me of here adventures. She once told me that at one of her art shows a customer saw her painting, went for her cheque book and was prepared to buy my friend’s piece. The lady issued a cheque payable to my friend’s personal name. In order to advance her career my friend must be close with art dealers and art galleries. She told me that the art galleries take a commission for each painting that the artist sells.
I attended my friend’s art exhibition and I was amazed at the people in the crowd. They were mainly well-dressed professionals. Everyone was refined and sipped on the complimentary wine. The prices of the paintings ranged from $1200.00 TTD to $200,000.00 TTD. I became curious as to how money launderers can abuse art dealers to launder money.
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- High value artwork can be purchased with cash obtained from criminal activities and then re-sold to another purchaser for more than the purchase price. This second purchaser can pay via cheque with the payee being the Art Dealer. The dirty money has been laundered and the proceeds from the sale of the artwork will appear legitimate because the funds will pass through a financial institution when the cheque is encashed.
- Artwork can be purchased with dirty money and shipped to another country where it will be sold at a profit. This allows for the cross-border movement of a high valued asset.
- A money launderer can purchase artwork at a low price with funds from illegal activity and then use the services of an auctioneer to sell the art to the highest bidder. The auctioneer can be paid in cash with money gained from the proceeds of crime.
- An art dealership can be registered, an art gallery can be opened to display art. The expenses of the art dealership such as rent and salaries can be paid with dirty money.
- After purchasing artwork with dirty money, the high valued art can be used as collateral for a loan application with a financial institution or money lending service.
- An artist can be hired to forge rare pieces of art and these can be sold to unsuspecting customers, who think that they are being the original.
- Pieces of art from a young and upcoming artist can be purchased and then can be sold in a few years when and if the artist becomes famous.
- The money launderer can connect with companies who want to contribute artwork to a Charity. The artwork that will be sold to the company can be purchased at minimal cost. The owner of a charity here in Trinidad told me about an instance where he asked for sponsorship from a big local company. The company donated almost $100,000 TTD in artwork to his cause.
- Art work can be purchased cheaply and then sold online to anyone interested in the piece. Naturally the piece will be sold for more than the purchase price.
- Expensive artwork can be stolen from a museum and then sold privately to an interested buyer.
The nature of these art sales is usually private and this makes it ideal for those desirous of washing money. In Trinidad and Tobago, art dealers are regulated by the Financial Intelligence Unit and must appoint a compliance officer, create a compliance program, attend anti-money laundering training and conduct anti-money laundering audits.
I am Antoinette Sydney, LLB LEC CAMLFC CFRMP the first Online Lawyer based in Trinidad and Tobago. I specialise in Corporate Law and Financial Crimes.
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