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The Florida International Bankers Association, better known by the acronym FIBA (and unrelated to an international basketball league with the same initials), has its annual Anti Money Laundering Conference today and tomorrow at the Radisson Hotel downtown.

Expecting Scarface-inspired crime narratives, New Times attended a pre-conference lecture by David Armond, Deputy Director of the Proceeds of Crime unit for Britain's newly-formed Serious Organised Crime Agency, better known by the acronym SOCA (unrelated to West Indian musical genre of Soul-Calypso). Attendees included forensic accountants, an agent from Customs and Border Patrol (with holstered gun), and at least one criminal defense attorney.

The event was sponsored by the British Consulate, which in turn sponsored an open bar. The primarily male crowd, a throng of dark suits, already showed a slight flush around the collar from the free Johnny Walker by the time the speech began.

Armond came armed with a Power Point presentation replete with charming British spelling. He apologized for being "croaky" with a cold. He described SOCA, which presently has two representatives here in Miami and is about to expand with a third, as "a harm reduction agency with law enforcement powers." SOCA's other outposts beyond the UK include Madrid, Holland, Colombia, and the United Arab Emirates.

Armond elaborated that one way to make money laundering less attractive is to enforce it even at the lowest levels of crime, charging the mothers and girlfriends of crack dealers with money laundering for possessing "smart clothes and flat-screen televisions" purchased with drug profits. He also cited a philosophy of "lifetime management" for criminals, quoting the "old adage that if you get a dog for Christmas, it's not just for Christmas; it's for life."

After a detailed description of SOCA's hierarchy and powers, the lecture ended with polite applause, and the audience returned to the bar for relubrication. Miami Vice it was not, though in a closing acknowledgement Armond deferred to the expertise of law enforcement agents here, since Miami is, in his words, "a nexus of money laundering."

-- Emily Witt

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