Thursday, 08 June 2023
Englishman in Dubrovnik Englishman in Dubrovnik

From Zero to 10 Billion Euros: How a Water Bill Payment Exposed the Secret Life of an Unlikely Money Launderer!

Written by  May 21, 2023

How has banking changed over the centuries? More importantly when was the last time you actually went into a bank?

There is a huge generational gap here. Anyone over the age of sixty regularly takes a ticket and waits patiently for their number to flash. Whilst the rest of the population are pointing their mobile phone at a QR code to pay the phone bill. “Oh, I just don’t trust banking online, I could get hacked, I want to speak to someone human,” said my mother. She isn’t the only one.

Unfortunately, the bank that I use for a few things doesn’t even give me the chance of actually walking through the door and taking a ticket. They closed their Dubrovnik branch a couple of years ago, meaning that if I want to see someone face-to-face I have a 500 km roundtrip.

Now, I should really have disengaged myself from this bank years ago anyway, the service and general conditions are, well let’s just say less than perfect. On the flip side actually disentangling yourself is like a fly escaping from a spider’s web. The more you wriggle the more cocooned you become.

But there comes a time, when straw breaks the camel’s back, when enough is enough.

“Can you just pay the water bill?” asked my wife. I flashed my mobile at the QR code on the bill – rejected. I tried again. Same problem. So I jumped onto the app and yes both my current account and savings account were showing zero.

I didn’t expect them to say “you are a millionaire” but I thought I had enough to pay a water bill.

I dived in more and there was indeed some cash there but I had reserved funds of 10 billion euros! WTF!

This is when I could have done with an actual physical bank. I phoned the hotline and spent five minutes (at least) listening to an instrumental version of the Love Story! Could they have chosen a worse song. “Could you please send us an email and we will look into it,” came the answer from the bank operator.

Am I the worst money launderer in the world? 

I knew that emailing this bank was a hit and miss situation. They answered roughly 50 percent of the time. But I tried. And waited. And waited. The following day I received an answer. A reply that left me laughing in confusion.

“Your account has been blocked because it is necessary to conduct an in-depth analysis of the client. The Bank has an internal act Regulations on the Implementation of the Law on prevention of money laundering and terrorist financing prescribed periodically perform re-depth analysis.” I was being checked for money laundering and financing terrorist organisations!!

I could possibly be the worst money launderer in the world!! At the time I had a grand total of 89 euro in my current account. I laundered less than 100 euro. If I was in the Mafia, I’d have been kicked out for embarrassing them. Not so much a “GoodFella” more a “PoorFella.”

And which terrorist organisation was I supposed to be funding? I couldn’t even afford to take my terrorists out for ćevapi! The worst funded terrorist organisation ever. Forget a high speed chase in some sports car, I could just about afford to buy them all a bus ticket!

Don't Google how much is a nuclear bomb! 

The cost of a nuclear bomb is around $200 million. I Googled it, which in hindsight was probably a bad idea. I then Googled can I buy a bomb for 89 euro, another bad idea. And got the answer - No results!

Clearly, the amount in the account hadn’t stopped the bank from thinking I was living like a James Bond villain. Jetting from exotic locations to warzones on a private jet. The reality was that I couldn’t even buy a ticket with Ryanair!

I really wanted to write a sarcastic email to the bank, but then held myself back as the would probably lower the chances of getting a reply even more. So I wrote a bland one, and got a reply the next day. “To update your personal dana remotely you can send us photographs of the front and back side of your ID card from your e-mail adress,” was the reply.

Firstly, there were two spelling mistakes – dana and not data – and address with one d. But never mind.

Secondly, of course I had to do this remotely as you have moved your bank to another city! After a couple of days, the accounts were active again.

Finally. I’m sure that there are money launderers breathing a sigh of relief that they can use my services again. Only joking (just in case the bank reads this and puts me on the wanted list again.) 

Read more Englishman in Dubrovnik…well, if you really want to


About the author
Mark Thomas (aka Englez u Dubrovniku) is the editor of The Dubrovnik Times. He was born and educated in the UK and moved to live in Dubrovnik in 1998. He works across a whole range of media, from a daily radio show to TV and in print. Thomas is fluent in Croatian and this column is available in Croatia on the website – Dubrovnik Vjesnik


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