Benjamin Franklin once said: “I wake up every morning at nine and grab for the morning paper. Then I look at the obituary page. If my name is not on it, I get up. ” These days, we have to google our name, and make sure we don’t appear somewhere we do not wish to be. My friend Susan, the anti money laundering specialist, wrote an article on how the internet is an essential in the regulated sector: http://ihatemoneylaundering.
Just a few weeks before I had googled myself as I do a few times a year to make sure I am not associated with anything I do not want to be associate with. Well, there my name popped up for some Panama companies. You know, I once was married to a money launderer. I did not realize because I never had any anti-money laundering training. Not even when I was working at Barclays Bank! I strongly believe that schools should provide basic training in financial crime (and other crimes, but more on that some other time). Because really, you have no idea when you might get involved. No one announces you: hey, I’m going to launder some money, will you help me? Your husband, the man you are supposed to trust, the father of your children, will just ask (because you live in a tax paradise): “Can I put some money through your account for this client? No worries, it is all safe.”. If he says it’s ok, it must be. After all, why would he do harm to the mother of his children? I also believed that couples plan their financial future together. And not one party securing his financial future while leaving the other party in the void. This is also part of the corporate services he provides to his clients.
Anyway, I checked out each and every one of the companies, and for this my basic Spanish came in handy. 2 companies were “disuelta” dissolved, but 4 were still “vigente” active!
We split up in June 2000, all these resignations should have been dealt with at that time. I was never paid for any services on the board of directors by the way. I was a free ride all along… But most importantly, I was not happy at all still being registered as a Secretary on some active companies. What type of business are these companies involved in? I remember a boat captain who got jailed in Florida for drug smuggling (of course he claimed to be innocent). One of these Panama companies was owner of a tanker. I wrote the lawyers in Panama responsible for these companies, asking to be removed. And they wrote me back with a 500 USD bill (for 1 company, there are 4 active). Then I contacted the association of independent corporate service providers and asked them what to do. They told me to give my ex 7 days notice to get my resignation duly registered, if not send a bailiff and take legal action. This of course will have consequences for his company. My ex believes everything is a joke, so is the unauthorized use of my name. Oh, the company is dead. No yearly fees have been paid since 15 years. But they will still be officialy active until 2015. Only then they will be struck off. A company officially registered as active is not dead. The truth is, he could use these companies at any time until 2015, and I would never know about it.
I can’t change the past. I was young, naive and wanted to trust. But I want to be in control of the use of my name now, today. As written in my first blog post: growing older is an eye opener. And for me, it’s been mostly the good genes in my body that have kicked in, and revolted against bad influences around me. It’s never too late to be a better person.