Show an ad over header. AMP

Leaked Treasury documents reveal massive money laundering in global banking system

Thousands of leaked government documents covering at least $2 trillion worth of transactions reveal how some of the world's biggest banks knowingly moved around the money of oligarchs, terrorists and criminals, with few consequences, according to a massive investigation by BuzzFeed News, the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) and hundreds of other news organizations.

The big picture: The investigation, published on Sunday, examines more than 2,100 suspicious activity reports (SARs) filed by banks and other financial firms with the U.S. Department of Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, known as FinCEN.


Key findings:

  • "Five global banks — JPMorgan, HSBC, Standard Chartered Bank, Deutsche Bank and Bank of New York Mellon — kept profiting from powerful and dangerous players even after U.S. authorities fined these financial institutions for earlier failures to stem flows of dirty money," the ICIJ writes.
  • "U.S. agencies responsible for enforcing money laundering laws rarely prosecute megabanks that break the law, and the actions authorities do take barely ripple the flood of plundered money that washes through the international financial system," the ICIJ reports.
  • "Big banks shift money for people they can’t identify and in many cases fail to report suspect transactions until years after the fact."
  • BuzzFeed News adds: "These documents, compiled by banks, shared with the government, but kept from public view, expose the hollowness of banking safeguards, and the ease with which criminals have exploited them. Profits from deadly drug wars, fortunes embezzled from developing countries, and hard-earned savings stolen in a Ponzi scheme were all allowed to flow into and out of these financial institutions, despite warnings from the banks’ own employees."
  • "Laws that were meant to stop financial crime have instead allowed it to flourish. So long as a bank files a notice that it may be facilitating criminal activity, it all but immunizes itself and its executives from criminal prosecution. The suspicious activity alert effectively gives them a free pass to keep moving the money and collecting the fees."

By the numbers, per BuzzFeedand the ICIJ:

  • BuzzFeed received thousands of secret government documents more than a year ago.
  • Among the leaked documents were 2,100 SARs, totaling more than 22,000 pages.
  • BuzzFeed shared the SARs with the ICIJ and more than 400 journalists from 110 news organizations in 88 countries.
  • The documents provide information on more than 10,000 people and organizations in at least 170 countries and territories.
  • More than 250 SARs referenced people with addresses in the US.
  • At least 120 people referenced in the SARs had addresses in Russia.
  • Individuals or organizations with addresses in the UK, China, Germany, the United Arab Emirates, Canada, and Ukraine appeared in at least 20 reports each.
  • In total, the SARs flagged more than $2 trillion in transactions between 1999 and 2017.
  • The documents include SARs filed by nearly 90 financial institutions. The 10 most common banks were Deutsche Bank, Bank of New York Mellon, Standard Chartered, JPMorgan Chase, Barclays, HSBC, Bank of China, Bank of America, Wells Fargo, and Citibank.
  • JP Morgan Chase flagged "more than $335 billion [sic] in suspicious activity, relating to more than 100,000 wire transfers 'sent, received or processed' over the course of a decade-plus by MKS, a Switzerland-based company that trades precious metals."
  • The ICIJ notes that the "FinCEN Files represent less than 0.02% of the more than 12 million suspicious activity reports that financial institutions filed with FinCEN between 2011 and 2017."

Of note: According to BuzzFeed, the banks mentioned in the reports could not comment on individual transactions due to privacy laws, but many did provide general statements in response to questions about the investigation.

Go deeper: Read the full FinCEN Files investigation.

Belgium imposes lockdown, citing "health emergency" due to influx of COVID-19 cases

Belgium is enforcing a strict lockdown starting Sunday amid rising coronavirus infections, hospital admissions and a surge of deaths, Prime Minister Alexander De Croo announced on Friday.

Why it matters: De Croo said the government saw no choice but to lock down "to ensure that our health care system does not collapse." Scientists and health officials said deaths have doubled every six days, per the Guardian.

Keep reading... Show less

First look: Reid Hoffman launches $1M ad urging election patience

Billionaire and LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman, one of Democrats' biggest donors, tells Axios he's launching a $1 milliondigital ad campaign in battleground states urging voters to be patient with election results and prepare for no winner to be known on Nov. 3, no matter what "some people" may prematurely declare via Twitter.

Driving the news: The three-minute ad, titled "We Count! A Patriotic Musical Extravaganza," features the voice of "The Big Bang Theory's" Jim Parsons and Broadway star Barrett Doss. The spot will appear on Facebook targeting voters in the swing states of Arizona, Florida, Iowa, Michigan, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

Keep reading... Show less

2020 early voting has already reached 61% of 2016's total turnout

Early voting in the 2020 election across the U.S. on Friday had already reached 61% of 2016's total turnout, according to state data compiled by the Elect Project.

Why it matters: The coronavirus pandemic and its resultant social-distancing measures prompted a massive uptick in both mail-in ballots and early voting nationwide, setting up an unprecedented and potentially tumultuous count in the hours and days after the polls close on Nov. 3.

Keep reading... Show less

Republicans gear up for day-of and post-Election Day litigation

Republican Party officials say they're already looking to Pennsylvania, Minnesota and Nevada as likely battlegrounds for post-election lawsuits if the results are close.

The big picture: As pre-election lawsuits draw to a close, and with President Trump running behind Joe Biden in national and many battleground state polls, Republicans are turning their attention to preparations for Election Day and beyond, and potential recounts.

Keep reading... Show less

Federal Reserve expands lending program for small businesses

The Federal Reserve said on Friday it would again lower the minimum loan size for its pandemic-era small business program.

Details: Businesses and nonprofits will be able to borrow a minimum of $100,000 from the facility, down from $250,000 — a move that might attract smaller businesses that don't need as hefty of a loan. Since the program launched earlier this year, the minimum loan size has been reduced twice.

Keep reading... Show less

Whoever wins the presidential election will steer the auto industry's future

President Donald Trump and Democratic challenger Joe Biden would likely steer automotive policy in different directions over the next four years, potentially changing the industry's road map to the future.

Why it matters: The auto industry is on the cusp of historic technological changes and the next president — as well as the next Congress — could have an extraordinary influence on how the future of transportation plays out.

Keep reading... Show less

Higher education expands its climate push with new degree programs, schools

New or expanded climate initiatives are popping up at several universities, a sign of the topic's rising prominence and recognition of the threats and opportunities it creates.

Why it matters: Climate and clean energy initiatives at colleges and universities are nothing new, but it shows expanded an campus focus as the effects of climate change are becoming increasingly apparent, and the world is nowhere near the steep emissions cuts that scientists say are needed to hold future warming in check.

Keep reading... Show less

Insights

mail-copy

Get Goodhumans in your inbox

Most Read

More Stories