FINCEN Files: Worldwide investigation charges global banks of industrial scale money laundering
According to recently published research by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (hereinafter “ICIJ”), there are still extensive deficits in the fight against international money laundering. The ICIJ bases its information mainly on a data leak from the US Financial Crimes Enforcement Network of the US Treasury Department (hereinafter “FinCEN”), to which the New York online portal Buzzfeed had access. These data were processed by the ICIJ investigation network over the past one and a half years.
A few days ago, the ICIJ stated that the information resulting from the data leak mentioned above would show that banks from all over the world had been doing business with high-risk customers for years. Despite strict money laundering rules, these banks would have accepted suspected criminals as customers and executed billions of dollars in transfers on their behalf. The ICIJ named several major global banks which, despite completed and ongoing investigations for money laundering, would have continued to accept and transfer billions of dollars of dubious origin in recent years.
The data collection focuses on about 2100 Suspicious Activity Reports (SAR): these are reports on suspicious activities reported by banks to FinCEN. According to the ICIJ, such subsequent reports of suspected money laundering activities would often have a purely pro forma character, as the banks would have been aware that the regulatory authorities entrusted with the anti-money laundering supervision were chronically understaffed and could therefore perform their monitoring function only insufficiently. According to the ICIJ homepage, the banking institutions deliberately reported incidents belatedly – sometimes even with significant delay. Finally, pursuant to the ICIJ, the analysis would also have revealed that banks involved in the FinCEN files regularly carried out transactions with companies without knowing the beneficial owner of the account.