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‘The days of dirty business largely over for Guernsey’

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THE FORMER FBI agent who was responsible for the capture of the ‘Wolf of Wall Street’ said the days of ‘dirty business’ on Guernsey are largely over.

Former FBI agent Gregory Coleman was speaking at the recent Mourant Ozannes Trust Forum. (Picture by Peter Frankland, 21029863)

Gregory Coleman spent 17 years investigating criminals engaged in stock manipulation of the sort depicted in the 2013 Hollywood film.

Now a public speaker and anti money-laundering trainer, Mr Coleman visited the island to talk about the tangible effects of financial crime and the first-hand details of his most famous case, at the Mourant Ozannes Trust Forum.

‘During the 1990s, Jersey, Guernsey, and Isle of Man were popular spots for US fraudsters to go. I had several investigations that led here. The island is relatively close, you speak the same language, and had a very hospitable financial system that courted the type of business that fraudsters wanted. It is what it is, if there was no dirty business there I wouldn’t have been looking there.

‘That seemed to slowly disappear in the 2000s and changed to places like Mauritius and Seychelles. My sense is that it is probably because of a crack-down in the US, a change in attitude to doing business as usual (in Guernsey), and possibly terrorism financing fears. I’m also aware of recent asset forfeiture sharing between Guernsey and the US which suggests to me they are serious about cleaning up the business. Criminals always find the path of least resistance and avoid places that will seize funds in cooperation with the US. Publicly announcing such a seizure is broadcasting a strong message,’ he said.

The ‘Wolf of Wall Street’, Jordan Belfort, is one of the most famous stock-manipulators in history, selling penny-stocks for highly inflated sums before their price inevitably dropped. Following Mr Coleman’s investigation he was arrested and sentenced to 22 months in prison and required to pay $110m. in restitution to his victims. Mr Belfort is now also a public speaker.

‘We ended up speaking at the same hotel last year,’ said Mr Coleman.

‘I crashed his event, actually. I didn’t know he was going to be there, the elevator man saw my event badge and said ‘’you guys have the agent that caught him but we’ve got the guy himself’’ which was doubly good because he didn’t realise I was the agent. I’m in touch with [Belfort] anyway and three or four other people I’ve arrested. It’s a product of my investigational style, it’s not personal for me. I’m an agent, I have a job to do and they’re the criminals,’ he said.

Mourant Ozannes partner Matthew Guthrie said he was grateful to Butterfield for helping to bring over the keynote speaker to inspire the guests.

‘This is a real coup for us, I’m sure what Mr Coleman has to say will resonate. Most people will never see anything come across their desk which is fraudulent so this is a really important opportunity for them,’ he said.

n An interview with Gregory Coleman will appear in the next issue of our Business Brief magazine.

Alex Warlow

By Alex Warlow
News reporter

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