"FinCEN Files": banks' shortcomings in the fight against money laundering
The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), in partnership with the American newspaper Buzzfeed and 108 international media located in 88 different states, has initiated an investigation pointing to the validation by some banking giants of several billion dollars of suspicious transactions. Buzzfeed explains that these major banks have taken advantage of activities carried out by terrorists, arms and drug traffickers and other international criminals to enrich themselves at the expense of the US government.
The investigation is titled "Fincen Files", named after the intelligence unit of the US Treasury Department FinCEN – for Financial Crimes Enforcement Network – responsible for combating money laundering and terrorist financing. FinCEN cannot, however, force banks to stop money laundering.
The Consortium conducted a 16-month investigation consisting of more than 2100 suspicious activity reports submitted to FinCEN by the banks' internal auditors.
The investigation specifically targets JPMorgan Chase, HSCB, Standard Chartered, Deutsche Bank and Bank of New York, explaining in particular that these banking entities have continued their money-laundering activities even though they had already been convicted of money-laundering.
The investigation indicates that JPMorgan Chase has made money transfers to companies associated with the massive looting of public funds in Venezuela, Malaysia or Ukraine. Deutsche Banke did not take into account the warning signals. It has also been actively involved in $230 billion in money laundering.
In addition, the "FinCEN Files" reveal that banks transferred more than $2 trillion in payments between 1999 and 2017, even though they had taken the measure of the suspicious nature of these payments. In addition, the investigation found that banks frequently made transactions with companies located in financial havens, without the banks knowing the identity of the final owner of the account. No less than 20% of the reports analyzed related to a client whose address was located in the British Virgin Islands, the United Kingdom, the United States, Cyprus, Hong Kong, the United Arab Emirates, Russia or Switzerland.
The survey also reveals that in 50% of the reports analyzed, the banks had no information about the people behind the transaction.
FinCEN declined to comment, and said it had appealed to the U.S. Department of Justice and the Inspector General of the Treasury to condemn the disclosure of the documents. According to FinCEN, such acts are likely to pose a risk to the national security of the United States as well as to that of the people behind the reports.
As for the banks targeted by the "FinCEN Files", it is mainly a question of denying the accusations against them and affirming their willingness to constantly progress in the fight against money laundering.
According to the Consortium, the FinCEN Files not only highlight the paradox of the system in which banks are themselves responsible for combating money laundering and terrorist financing globally while enriching themselves through illegal activities, but also demonstrate how authoritarian regimes can benefit from laundered money.
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