And now for something completely different.
Sherlock Holmes and the money launderers.
Some people imagine that money laundering started in the 1970s or 1980s. But anyone with any sense knows that’s not even close to true. Some falsely claim that it started with Al Capone and Laundromats in the 1920s (failing to notice that laundromats weren’t invented until long after Capone was in jail). We know that money laundering techniques were in use in China several thousand years B.C.
But, let’s look at the fun stuff.
From ″The Valley of Fear″ a Sherlock Holmes mystery by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
Inspector McDonald is telling Holmes that he went to see Professor Moriarty in his in his study at university. Holmes asks about the room.
″Did you happen to observe a picture over the professor’s head?″
″I don’t miss much, Mr Holmes. Maybe I learned that from you. Yes, I saw the picture – a young woman with her head on her hands, peeping at you sideways.″
″That painting was by Jean Baptiste Greuze.″
The inspector endeavoured to look interested.
″Jean Baptiste Greuze, ″ Holmes continued, joining his finger tips and leaning well back in his chair, ″was a French artist who flourished between the years of 1759 and 1800. I allude, of course, to his working career. Modern criticism has more than endorsed the high opinion formed of him by his contemporaries.″
The inspector’s eyes grew abstracted. ″Hadn’t we better…″ he said.
″We are doing so,″ Holmes interrupted. ″All that I am saying has a very direct and vital bearing upon what you have called the Birlstone Mystery. In fact, he may be at the very centre of it.″
MacDonald smiled feebly, and looked appealingly to me. “Your thoughts move a bit too quick for me, Mr. Holmes. You leave out a link or two, and I can’t get over the gap. What in the whole wide world can be the connection between this dead painting man and the affair at Birlstone?”
“All knowledge comes useful to the detective,” remarked Holmes. “Even the trivial fact that in the year 1865 a picture by Greuze entitled La Jeune Fille a l’Agneau fetched one million two hundred thousand francs—more than forty thousand pounds—at the Portalis sale may start a train of reflection in your mind.”
It was clear that it did. The inspector looked honestly interested.
“I may remind you,” Holmes continued, “that the professor’s salary can be ascertained in several trustworthy books of reference. It is seven hundred a year.”
“Then how could he buy—”
“Quite so! How could he?”
“Ay, that’s remarkable,” said the inspector thoughtfully.
″You have now seen the point of the picture. It shows him to be a very wealthy man. How did he acquire wealth? He is unmarried. His younger brother is a station master in the west of England. His chair is worth seven hundred a year. And he owns a Greuze.”
“Surely the inference is plain.”
“You mean that he has a great income and that he must earn it in an illegal fashion?”
“Exactly. Of course I have other reasons for thinking so—dozens of exiguous threads which lead vaguely up towards the centre of the web where the poisonous, motionless creature is lurking. I only mention the Greuze because it brings the matter within the range of your own observation.”
“Well, Mr. Holmes, I admit that what you say is interesting: it’s more than interesting—it’s just wonderful. But let us have it a little clearer if you can. Is it forgery, coining, burglary—where does the money come from?”
“Have you ever read of Jonathan Wild?”
“Well, the name has a familiar sound. Someone in a novel, was he not? I don’t take much stock of detectives in novels—chaps that do things and never let you see how they do them. That’s just inspiration: not business.”
“Jonathan Wild wasn’t a detective, and he wasn’t in a novel. He was a master criminal, and he lived last century—1750 or thereabouts.”
“Then he’s no use to me. I’m a practical man.”
“Mr. Mac, the most practical thing that you ever did in your life would be to shut yourself up for three months and read twelve hours a day at the annals of crime.
Everything comes in circles—even Professor Moriarty. Jonathan Wild was the hidden force of the London criminals, to whom he sold his brains and his organization on a fifteen per cent. commission.
The old wheel turns, and the same spoke comes up. It’s all been done before, and will be again. I’ll tell you one or two things about Moriarty which may interest you.”
“You’ll interest me, right enough.”
″I made it my business to hunt down some of Moriarty’s cheques lately—just common innocent cheques that he pays his household bills with. They were drawn on six different banks. Does that make any impression on your mind?”
“Queer, certainly! But what do you gather from it?”
“That he wanted no gossip about his wealth. No single man should know what he had. I have no doubt that he has twenty banking accounts; the bulk of his fortune abroad in the Deutsche Bank or the Credit Lyonnais as likely as not. Sometime when you have a year or two to spare I commend to you the study of Professor Moriarty.”