Leaked documents involving about $2000 Billions of transactions have revealed how some of the world’s biggest banks have allowed criminals to move dirty money around the world.
The FinCEN files are more than 2,500 documents, most of which were files that banks sent to the US authorities between 2000 and 2017. They raise concerns about what their clients might be doing. These documents are some of the international banking system’s most closely guarded secrets.
Today, the FinCEN Files — thousands of “suspicious activity reports” and other US government documents — offer an unprecedented view of global financial corruption, the banks enabling it, and the government agencies that watch as it flourishes. BuzzFeed News has shared these reports with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists and more than 100 news organizations in 88 countries.
Money laundering is a crime that makes other crimes possible. It can accelerate economic inequality, drain public funds, undermine democracy, and destabilize nations — and the banks play a key role. “Some of these people in those crisp white shirts in their sharp suits are feeding off the tragedy of people dying all over the world,” said Martin Woods, a former suspicious transactions investigator for Wachovia.
What has been revealed?
- HSBC allowed fraudsters to move millions of dollars of stolen money around the world, even after it learned from US investigators the scheme was a scam.
- JP Morgan allowed a company to move more than $1bn through a London account without knowing who owned it. The bank later discovered the company might be owned by a mobster on the FBI’s 10 Most Wanted list.
- Evidence that one of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s closest associates used Barclays bank in London to avoid sanctions which were meant to stop him using financial services in the West. Some of the cash was used to buy works of art.
- The husband of a woman who has donated £1.7m to the UK’s governing Conservative Party’s was secretly funded by a Russian oligarch with close ties to President Putin.
- The UK is called a “higher risk jurisdiction” and compared to Cyprus, by the intelligence division of FinCEN. That’s because of the number of UK registered companies that appear in the SARs. Over 3,000 UK companies are named in the FinCEN files – more than any other country.
- Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich once held secret investments in footballers not owned by his club through an offshore company.
- The United Arab Emirates’ central bank failed to act on warnings about a local firm which was helping Iran evade sanctions.
- Deutsche Bank moved money launderers’ dirty money for organised crime, terrorists and drug traffickers. More details (BuzzFeed News)
- Standard Chartered moved cash for Arab Bank for more than a decade after clients’ accounts at the Jordanian bank had been used in funding terrorism.
One of America’s oldest banks wired over a hundred million dollars in funds linked to the crypto Ponzi scheme OneCoin, according to a trove of documents leaked from the U.S.’ financial crimes watchdog.
In February 2017, the Bank of New York Mellon (BNY Mellon) flagged a number of transactions with the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) it deemed suspicious as they appeared to be “layered” – a money-laundering technique that hides the source of funds through sending multiple transactions.
Worth a combined $137 million, the bank said these transactions came from entities linked to OneCoin – a crypto scheme the U.S. government accused of being a Ponzi. It’s estimated OneCoin raised a total of $4 billion from investors, making it one of the most successful schemes of its kind ever.
Why is this leak different?
There have been a number of big leaks of financial information in recent years, including:
- 2017 Paradise Papers – A huge batch of leaked documents from an offshore legal service provider Appleby and corporate services provider Estera. The two operated together under the Appleby name until Estera became independent in 2016. They revealed the offshore financial dealings of politicians, celebrities and business leaders
- 2016 Panama Papers – Leaked documents from the law firm Mossack Fonseca showed more about how wealthy people were using offshore tax regimes to their benefit
- 2015 Swiss Leaks – Documents from HSBC’s Swiss private bank showed how it was using the country’s banking secrecy laws to help clients avoid paying tax
- 2014 LuxLeaks contained documents from the accountancy firm PricewaterhouseCoopers showing that big companies were using tax deals in Luxembourg to reduce the amount they were having to pay