The Panama Papers and the “Eligible Introducer” Scam

Contrary to what the name might suggest, an “eligible introducer” is not a licensed internet dating site.  Rather, as the Panama Papers reveal, it is what corrupt officials, drug lords, and other crooks use to skirt the laws meant to prevent them from concealing their wealth and how they got it.  In antimoney laundering law parlance, an “eligible introducer” is an intermediary willing to vouch for an individual’s honesty.  An earlier post explained how easy it is for corrupt politicians to establish a shell corporation in a place like the British Virgin Islands by paying an eligible introducer to attest to their character.  Here I show how hiring an eligible introducer makes it easy for corrupt officials to secure the real prize: a bank account in the shell’s name.

The post is prompted by a story Trinidad Express journalist Camini Marajh published April 30 recounting how an eligible introducer brokered the opening of an account for a shell company owned by a politically-connected Trinidadian.  The story suggests that what has long been rumored about the offshore industry is true: despite a massive legal edifice meant to keep corrupt money out of banks, with the “right” eligible introducer anyone can open a bank account no matter who they are and how they intend to use the account.  What’s more, as Marajh’s story shows, if it turns out later that the account was used to conceal questionable or illegal transactions, neither the introducer nor the bank is likely to be held responsible.     Continue reading