MONEY LAUNDERING II
In the comments section of this morning’s post on Rush Limbaugh and money laundering, Kevin Drum observes
You know, I basically agree with Megan, but….
Rush was doing this to buy illegal drugs, which is exactly what the law was intended for. It’s not as if this is some wild stretch.
It doesn’t, however, comport with my understanding of money laundering–which is designed, not to hide illegal activity requiring money but to hide illegally made money. That is, the point of “laundering” is to make “dirty” money “clean.”
I have virtually no training in statutory law, but a plain reading of the statute in question would seem to confirm this:
Whoever, knowing that the property involved in a financial transaction represents the proceeds of some form of unlawful activity, conducts or attempts to conduct such a financial transaction which in fact involves the proceeds of specified unlawful activity
Whoever transports, transmits, or transfers, or attempts to transport, transmit, or transfer a monetary instrument or funds from a place in the United States to or through a place outside the United States or to a place in the United States from or through a place outside the United States…
Again, the money itself is the focus: transfering money to or from the country.
Indeed, the language directly after the portion Mark Kleiman quotes is
conducts or attempts to conduct a financial transaction involving property represented to be the proceeds of specified unlawful activity, or property used to conduct or facilitate specified unlawful activity
Rush’s money, so far as we know, was earned from his radio show, books, and other legal activities. It was the things he was purchasing, not the tender with which he was purchasing it, that was illicit.
So, the person(s) selling Rush the illegally obtained drugs (remember, the drugs are “legal” if obtained through legitimate channels) could be guilty of money laundering if he took Rush’s “clean” money, now “dirtied” as a function of the transaction, and took measures to disguise the orgin of the money and/or the reporting of the money to authorities. Which comports with the genral perception of the crime.