An agent who works in the US for the Inland Revenue Service and an attorney in a case involving trade-based financial crime have been talking to the Voice of San Diego non-profit investigative news organisation about how they investigate trade-based financial crime.

The agent, who declined to be named for fear of compromising ongoing investigations, said disgruntled business partners or even “things on the news that seem weird” can raise a warning flag to investigators.

Follow the money

Once an investigation starts, some of the first clues come from banks the agent says.

“We follow the money, so one of the first things we try to see is how a person is banking, how they’re spending their money, where their money is coming from, so by nature, we always go and look at the bank records first,” the agent told the news organisation.

Creative money laundering

Meanwhile, US attorney Daniel Silva who prosecuted a California subsidiary of Netherlands-based Rabobank for trade-based criminal offences, says that “to launder money, you can get very creative…it’s limitless.”

“Banks have quite a bit of evidence, but I wouldn’t go as far as to say that’s the source or primary inspiration for our investigations,” Silva said.

“Our investigations start in a variety of ways. There’s no straightforward way in which they start. You get a tip from other agencies, you get a tip from certain people you know, you do review some of the filings that the banks do have on file,” he concluded.