When Holiday Parks Come Under Siege By Criminals

Any time there is an impending holiday, joy, happiness and peace spread among holidaymakers, as it takes people out of their busy stressful jobs to relax and have fun.

People travel from one location to another, park their vehicles and enjoy the serenity and nature of theme parks. Holidays in these parks are unique, as they don’t isolate you from your fellow holidaymakers as you might feel in hotels and resorts. At holiday parks/ homes, people choose to interact, to make friends, and to share the experience (and the odd bottle of mosquito repellent). It also offers people the chance to share stories and experiences. I must confess, holiday parks or homes adventures are not common in Ghana, let alone to have a road trip in caravans/ recreational vehicles (RVs), but this is common practice out there in the western world. The increasing competition within this sector with the introduction of giant jumping pillows, pedal karts, adventure playgrounds, resort pools, toddler pools, enormous water parks and even water slides has attracted criminals to focus their attention or activities to this aspect of the tourism industry. It is against this backdrop that awareness is been created to highlight the vulnerabilities of money laundering vulnerabilities in this industry.

Holiday Parks are commercial facility that includes various forms of inexpensive accommodation, such as campsites, cabins, caravan or RV parking, and motel rooms, for the use of people on holiday. It is also known as amusement park. Holiday homes, on the other hand, is a house or flat that someone owns in addition to their usual home and uses for holidays.

Most tourists prefer holiday homes to hotels because of the benefits these homes offer, which includes top attractions on your doorstep, home from home experience, friendly atmosphere, self-catering is cheaper, free nightly entertainment, value for money and many more.

Ghana has not developed its tourism sector to include holiday parks/ homes, but this form of tourism is widely spread in countries such as Netherlands, United Kingdom, USA, Germany and other tourism destination countries. This form of tourism has or is attracting criminals as it is less or not regulated and local authorities only concentrate on the benefits of tourism to their locality.

One way criminals are using the holiday homes/ parks to advance their criminal activities is buying of old holiday homes/ parks, renovating them to add value to the property and later selling them off or renting them out. The sale and purchase of holiday homes/ parks could be out of sight of government authorities because these transactions are often not recorded at any government agency. The criminal will invest their ill-gotten funds in the renovation process, thereby legitimating their dirty money when they sell them. As it is often said, tourism gets a boost when holiday homes/ parks are given a makeover.

Investing the dirty money in the operations of the holiday parks/ homes is another way criminals legitimize their dirty money obtained from illegal activities. These holiday parks/ homes become a cover to expand their criminal activities. At times these criminals offer below the market price to ward off competition. Others also comingle business proceeds from the holiday homes/ parks with the ill-gotten funds and deposit the funds at the bank.

Mention can also be made of the storage of illegal goods at these holiday homes as an avenue used by criminals to launder funds. Because most of these holiday homes are remote from the city capitals, they become a good storage place to hide contraband goods from the authorities. Some even use these holiday homes for prostitution activities and the production of illicit drugs. The TV series “Undercover,” which featured an ecstasy manufacturer who used a holiday village as a cover for his drugs empire, is a clear example of how vulnerable the holiday homes/ parks are to laundering ill-gotten funds.

Criminals could gain a foothold in the upper world (elite in society) by collaborating with local government officials, where these officials are blinded to the benefits, namely a boost for tourism and the refurbishment of parks in the locality. As a result, these officials are sometimes less critical of their evaluation and monitoring procedures (if it even exists).

Formalising and regulating the activities of holiday homes/ parks is one of the ways to manage the money laundering risk associated with this form of tourism. The Ghana Tourism Authority should develop guidelines for the operation of holiday homes/ parks. Proper due diligence should be conducted on potential investors in this form of tourism. This could take the form of customer identification (including Beneficiary Ownership), sanction screening, verification of source of funds and wealth and many more.

One way of making this form of tourism unattractive to criminals is to take preventive action by denying criminal owners licenses and by carrying out more coordinated checks at these places by the local/ municipal assemblies.

Training and awareness creation should also be one of the measures to make the holiday homes/ parks less attractive to the activities of criminals. There should be continuous awareness creation about the vulnerabilities and threats the sector is exposed to and the responsibilities of industry players on how to fight the menace.

Though holiday home/ park is a new form of tourism in Ghana and its vulnerability to money laundering might be seen as low, authorities need to look into it critically and develop the necessary policies, guidelines or laws to regulate its operations and activities.

Would you mind doing me a favor? Share this article with someone so that the awareness of money laundering and terrorist financing could be spread to avoid being used as a conduit by criminals.

If you require further information on this article, please contact Richieson @ richieson.gyeniboateng@gmail.com

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