This week, a group of news outlets including Buzzfeed News and BBC’s Panorama published a series of leaked documents revealing how some of the largest financial institutions in the world knowingly laundered trillions of dollars for criminals, terrorists, and oligarchs.
The documents are called the FinCEN files, named after the US Financial Crimes Enforcement Network from which the documents originated. The files contain over 2,500 documents, most of which are Suspicious Activity Reports that banks sent to regulators between 2000 and 2017. Suspicious Activity Reports are sent to authorities when banks suspect that a client may be doing something illegal, but don’t have any direct evidence to prove it. In most cases, the banks still go through with the transactions and then send in the reports to cover themselves legally in case their client ends up in trouble.
The documents reveal that many banks still continued to do business with criminal clients even after they were informed about their illegal activity.
The documents implicated some of the largest banks in the world. According to the reports, HSBC allowed scammers to launder millions after US investigators informed the bank about its client’s crimes. JP Morgan reportedly allowed a company connected to a mobster on the FBI’s 10 most wanted list to bank over $1bn through a London account.
The documents also found that banks helped certain governments evade US sanctions, although this may not necessarily be a bad thing if you disagree with the sanctions. Buzzfeed pointed out that Russian President Vladimir Putin’s associates used Barclays bank in London to avoid sanctions and buy works of art.
Deutsche Bank, which has been accused of laundering money for drug cartels and terrorists in the past, was also named in the documents, revealing further evidence to support these accusations.
The UK was identified as a hotspot of illegal activity for banks. Over 3,000 UK companies are named in the files, which is more than any country despite its small size and population.
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