Sinead Ryan: ''Laundering' taken a step too literally?'
The Central Bank has put up sweet little cartoons on its website in an effort to explain what it does to small children and politicians. A school-marm type with wild red hair, called Alex, does the explaining about payments, currency, interest rates and monetary policy. It's all quite twee, if a little paternalistic, but the fictitious classroom in Limerick she is pretending to address seem delighted with her.
We're told to look out for lesson two next month, about regulations. I imagine they're probably still working on lesson three, which could well be to do with money laundering.
It's possible they'll include an animated washing machine to explain how it all works, which wouldn't be entirely illogical, since it actually has a division which replaces money destroyed by water damage and other decomposition, exchanging it for new, crisp bank notes. "As a general rule, you will be reimbursed if you present more than half of a damaged genuine euro or Irish banknote", it reassures customers, encouraging them to submit sodden or torn money and do their country a service.
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Never a good turn goes unpunished, however, and the Central Bank - that bastion of defence against errant and greedy bankers - found itself literally laundering €5,000 on behalf of suspected drug trafficker Jason Boyle. When the CAB raided his home, discovering €72,000 in cash stuffed in a barrel he had allegedly buried in the back garden, gardaí suspected that wasn't all of it, and made inquiries to the Central Bank, which had helpfully swapped the sodden money for perfect new €50 notes, lodged straight into an account. Another €600 was exchanged at a relative's local branch.
Taking his cleaning cue from the bank in a rather more spirited sense than intended, he had splashed out on bathroom fittings, including his 'n' hers sinks, a hot tub and dozens of bottles of aftershave, among other things.
You can't blame him. It's likely the chap had been reading the report of former Credit Suisse compliance head Eoin O'Shea, who claims Ireland is "especially attractive to the launderer in many ways … there are more places to hide the dirty money flows".
Indeed. And with the tellers at the country's banking hub hankering to assist in such invigorating fashion, why not?
How do you say 'rip-off' when in Switzerland?
You'd need to rob a bank to afford a holiday in Switzerland.
I'm just back from an eye-watering few days in the obsessively tidy and expensive country. It doesn't use the euro, which means you have to do the franc conversion maths in your head when ordering lunch. I figured I had the sums all wrong on day one when I thought I was actually being charged €5.25 for an espresso. Turns out I was, and shelling out €30 for a 15-minute train journey gave me plenty of time to digest the fact that my entire holiday budget would be blown by dinner time. The official languages are German, French and Italian, but "ouch" feels the same in them all.
Paschal urged to consider another type of cabinet
The award for 'nice try' of the week goes to Ireland's antique dealers, who have made a pre-budget submission for a VAT exemption.
Their lobby group points out that an antique chair has a carbon footprint 16 times smaller than a new one and claims the recycle/reuse principle is worthy of a tax break. It's possible Paschal Donohoe is pondering it, but more likely that the antique cabinet he's considering isn't the one in his office, but the one in the Dáil he needs to convince before October.