A few months back I got my kitchen remodelled. It set me back by a couple of lakhs, and the guy who did the work for me insisted that I pay him fully in cash. I, who has had all cash inflows so far via bank transfers, was thus forced to withdraw (in several iterations) from the ATM perfectly white money and then hand it over to this guy and permanently convert it to black. Now that I think about it, I overpaid.
The key fact here is that people pay to get their money laundered. If you have Rs. 100 of unaccounted money in wads of cash, you are willing to give it to someone who puts Rs. 80 in your bank (the spread has been pulled out of thin air. Don’t go after me for that) and also some documentation to prove that you legally earned the Rs. 80.
So you have this bunch of people who want their money laundered. And then there are bank-only guys like me who sometimes have to produce wads of hard cash. Why isn’t there an exchange (illegal, of course, but who’s talking legality here? I’m only talking money) where money can be laundered and people with excess bank balances (and little hard cash) can be paid for it? For example, instead of paying Rs. 200000 in hard cash to my carpenter, I would have paid (say) Rs. 160000 to someone by cheque and got a receipt for it, and that person would have paid Rs. 200000 cash to my carpenter.
What does it say about the black economy that no such exchange exists? Does it mean that the market is skewed in a way that the demand for money laundering is much larger than its supply, because of which people who would otherwise have been intermediaries doing one side of the deal themselves? Or does an exchange like this actually exist but I’m not aware of it partly because it’s underground (for obvious legal reasons) and partly I’m seen as too small a fry to be accosted by the exchanges?
Next time I pay wads of hard cash, though, I’m going to try and see if I can get a discount.