THE world has become all too familiar with the phenomenon of money laundering, i.e. “the concealment of the origins of illegally obtained money, typically by means of transfers involving foreign banks or legitimate businesses” (Oxford Living Dictionaries).
However, it seems less familiar with a relatively new phenomenon of what I shall call “corporate reputation laundering”. The latter happens when a business or asset gets opportunistically sold or transferred to, ostensibly, new owners to shield it from the toxic reputational impact of previous owners.
Unlike money laundering, corporate reputation laundering is not necessarily a crime, at least not yet. It could however border on criminality if done with full knowledge or suspicion that the assets in question would have been or might come under investigation by the tax or other law enforcement authorities, or even run the risk of being forfeited by law enforcers such as the once effective Asset Forfeiture Unit in South Africa, if they are suspected to be proceeds of crime.