Financial Apocalypse – FinCEN files are a compilation of strictly confidential financial data . We learn that the biggest banks in the world have laundered more than two trillion dollars in a few years.
Their clients? Criminals of all stripes: terrorists, traffickers, corrupt politicians and oligarchs. Welcome to the white rabbit hole!
The content of FinCEN files
The FinCEN ( US Financial Crimes Enforcement Network ) is the financial brigade of the US Treasury. In order to enforce the laws against financial crimes, including money laundering, it is empowered to trace financial transactions. It was created in 1990, following an order from the Secretary of the Treasury.
Its official mission is to “protect the financial system against misuse, combat money laundering and its related crimes, including terrorism, and promote national security, through the strategic use of financial authorities, and to the collection, analysis and dissemination of financial intelligence. ”
On Saturday, September 20, Buzzfeed News dropped an atomic bomb . The media announces that it has a large collection of documents sent to FinCEN by various banks and financial institutions.
First of all, 22,000 pages list hundreds of thousands of transactions, involving more than 10,000 entities spread over 170 countries or territories. The documents also include over 2,100 suspicious activity reports – SAR for Suspicious Activities Reports. These are declarations of suspicion relating to these potentially illegal transactions. The data mainly span from 2011 to 2017.
It took the independent team of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists ( ICIJ ) over a year to go through these files. It must be said that this data could not be extracted and analyzed by computer. The 80 journalists therefore shared the reading of the 8,000 pages – 3 million words – making up the 2,100 SARs.
Two trillion dollars of suspicious activity
Along with these suspicious transaction reports, the journalists examined the more than 100,000 financial transactions concerned. The FinCEN lines totaling a trasaction volume of two billion – two thousand billion dollars, more than two-thirds of the GDP of France.
The result of the analysis of these cases is final: the world’s largest banks have laundered colossal sums on behalf of the world’s worst criminals. Terrorists, drug traffickers, financial criminals: all the mafias are represented.
The podium of money laundering champions: Deutsche Bank, followed by financial holding company JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Standard Chartered.
But what kind of dirty money are we talking about? This is where the immorality of the banking cartel comes to the fore. While they ask you for supporting documents for any purchase or transfer, these same individuals launder the money of serious criminals without batting an eyelid. Likewise, international sanctions do not apply to everyone. These banks have the power to help some oligarchs escape it.
This article presents a selection of the crispiest scandals. And to end on a crypto note, there is an icing on the cake! Indeed, Bank of New York Mellon was laundering money from the worst crypto Ponzi scheme of all time, OneCoin. Rather funny, when you know the difficulties of buying bitcoin with your own money.
HSBC, from drug trafficking to Ponzi schemes
HSBC had accustomed us to irritating hypocrisy. Its executives are demanding an x-ray of our entrails to handle more than 10,000 euros from our account, but allow the South American cartels to launder several million dollars in all discretion.
Indeed, the bank had been convicted in 2012 in a 1.9 billion dollar fine for having laundered 881 million from drug trafficking. And these were not petty traffickers, but the Mexican Sinaloa cartel and the Colombian criminal organization Norte del Valle.
Despite this sanction and the promises, HSBC did nothing but repeat the offense for the next 5 years. The FinCEN files show that the bank has continued to help these “sensitive” clients to profit from them.
For example, she served a Panamanian firm on the Treasury Department’s Red List, serving as a laundry room for Central American drug lords (Vida Panamá).
The Hong Kong branch of HSBC has helped those responsible for the WCM777 Ponzi scheme transfer tens of millions of dollars. She even continued to provide her services after being ordered by US authorities to block accounts linked to the scam.
HSBC has also helped several politicians and oligarchs specializing in financial fraud . A total of $ 900 million was reportedly laundered on behalf of their various shell companies.
JPMorgan and the oligarchs
At JPMorgan Chase & Co., dirty Ukrainian and Russian mafia money seem to pay big. This first became known in 2014, when Yanukovych fled the country with his right-hand man, Andriy Klyuyev. Accused of embezzling public funds and rigging the elections, they needed a solution to launder their money.
They first used Activ Solar and a myriad of shell companies controlled by the Klyuyev family. After laundering millions, they needed a bigger structure to move money between Eastern Europe and the United States. It was JPMorgan that gave them access to the dollar.
Launder money by buying lingerie and shoes
The former president and his ex-prime minister created NoviRex. The UK registered firm was owned by two companies with unknown founders located in the British Virgin Islands. NoviRex was in household appliances and was domiciled in a small business in Cardiff, Scotland. If her balance sheet seemed very sad ($ 2,500 in turnover), the FinCEN files show that she has transferred millions of dollars.
It’s Latvian bank ABLV who performed most of the payments. The latter helped launder $ 4 billion in Eastern Europe. The Russian Troika Laundromat is one of the most substantial money laundering operations in Eurasia known to date.
Despite its bad reputation, JPMorgan Chase opened accounts for the ABLV and was very permissive. The strategy of Jamie Dimon’s holding company has always been to open up to international trade. The fact that 90% of ABVL’s clients are considered “high risk” has not scared the banking juggernaut. The Latvian bank has transferred several billion dollars on behalf of a multitude of shell companies, including NoviRex.
Yanukovych and Klyuyev were thus able to launder 188 million dollars in early 2014. In total, even after receiving a warning from regulators regarding its anti-money laundering policy, JPMorgan allowed NoviRex to transfer 230 million dollars between 2010 and 2015.
FinCEN files expose a lucrative business
The FinCEN files also show that the bank helped Semion Mogilevich. He is one of the 10 most wanted individuals by the FBI. Indeed, the “ boss of the bosses ” of the Russian mafia is not an altar boy: trafficking in arms, drugs, assassinations … JPMorgan allowed him to launder $ 1.02 billion, via the company ABSI Enterprises, between 2002 and 2013.
And the list is long. The JP notably helped the corrupt Kazakh politician Victor Khrapunov and his family … The leaders also turned a blind eye to more than 100,000 suspicious transactions in twelve years, amounting to $ 355 billion, with the metal broker precious Swiss MKS.
To conclude, let us recall that the JPMorgan Chase won 500 million dollars in costs thanks to Bernie Madoff … The fine has been 2.6 billion, there is no doubt that helping this kind of people is lucrative in the long term.
Deutsche Bank, mirror trades and the Mafia
It should be known from the outset that the FinCEN files reveal that the chairman of Deutsche Bank, Paul Achleitner, was alerted to money laundering carried out within his institution. The supervisory board had received two warnings.
The German bank is already known for its involvement in various scandals, the most recent concerning the dark activities of Jeffrey Epstein. The case that interests us here is that of Russian mirror trades.
This technique makes it possible to launder money by buying and reselling shares. A branch of Deutsche Bank based in Moscow buys Russian blue-chip stocks (reliable stocks) in rubles. At the same time, a branch based in London then sells the equivalent in dollars.
She continued to wash dirty money from unsavory people, like drug dealer Vladislav Leontyev. Similarly, the organization of Altaf Khanani, responsible for laundering the money of Hezbollah, the Taliban and the Mexican drug cartels, thus benefited from the services of Deutsche Bank to the tune of 50 million dollars.
Other beneficiaries of these mirror trades also include Middle Eastern arms traffickers, cybercriminals and other Russian oligarchs.
These FinCEN files reveal strangely lax behavior
Deutsche Bank has not finished having problems. Certain elements of the files prove that the leaders of the bank were warned from 2013 of these activities. Controllers called the Russian money laundering cases “an immediate priority ”.
Obviously, the bank is having difficulties with its teams dedicated to compliance. It even seems that this department was almost non-existent in the Moscow branch. Inefficient, customer knowledge processes ( KYC ) did not identify the operators of the various front companies with suspicious activities. Russian bankers were unable to list their clients. And this did not alarm the internal audit division of Deutsche Bank: the Moscow branch received a green rating.
Finally, the Bank of America sounded the alarm in 2016. Indeed, it had some questions about cash flows from entities with a sulfurous reputation. Well, the delegated team was simply kicked out of the office by one of the top executives of Deutsche Bank.
Bank of New York Mellon and OneCoin crypto-Ponzi
It is one of the most famous cases in the cryptosphere. The famous Ponzi scheme has made it possible to swindle billions of dollars from gullible investors.
Created by Bulgarian Ruja “Crypto Queen” Ignatova, OneCoin promised sky-high returns to its users. First of all, the latter invested their money in a cryptocurrency – which did not exist, of course. Then they had to attract other people into the system, through network marketing. The pyramid scam is thus valued at $ 4 billion.
The Department of Justice investigation is slipping, and only a few founders of OneCoin have been identified. Impatient victims executed some important members in Mexico. US justice has put OneCoin’s lawyer behind bars. Mark Scott is accused of laundering $ 400 million.
Follow the money
Where and how was the money laundered? So far, little is known. But the FinCEN files reveal that Bank of New York Mellon has sold $ 137 million in 29 transactions. The controllers obviously ignored the two corresponding SARs.
Disclosure of FinCEN files : the hypocrites’ ball
Since the disclosure of this information, FinCEN has merely reiterated its illegal nature.
Disclose this kind of files and you will be the future Julian Assange
“The Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) is aware that various media are planning to publish a series of articles based on illegally disclosed Suspicious Activity Reports (SARs), as well as other sensitive government documents, dating from ‘A few years ago. As FinCEN previously reported, unauthorized disclosure of SAR is a crime that can impact U.S. national security, compromise law enforcement investigations, and threaten the safety and security of institutions and individuals who file such reports. FinCEN referred this matter to the US Department of Justice and the Office of the Inspector General of the US Department of the Treasury. ”
Following the leak of the documents, the banks concerned all gave up a declaration. Some are hilarious. They claim to have worked very correctly, within the framework set by law. Thus, the departments dedicated to financial compliance have done everything in their power to fight against money laundering and financial fraud.
And those two trillions? The fault was bad luck. There are too many fraudsters, and it is difficult to combat money laundering without more powerful monitoring tools. These suspicious activity reports are therefore just lost among the many files that FinCEN is struggling to process.
FinCEN files? No comment for Deutsche Bank
“This is not new information for us or our regulators. […] We recognized the past weaknesses of our control environment, we apologized for it and accepted our respective fines. Most importantly, we have learned from our mistakes, we have systematically tackled problems and changed our scope of activity, controls and people. […] We have invested almost $ 1 billion in improving controls, training and operational processes, and have grown our financial crime team to over 1,500 people. […] We are a different bank now. ”
“Legal restrictions prevent us and other banks from discussing SARs. […] SARs are alerts of potential problems and not of proven facts. » Deutsche Bank
Same story for HSBC
“We do not comment on reports of suspicious activity. […] Beginning in 2012, HSBC embarked on a multi-year journey to review its ability to fight financial crime in more than 60 jurisdictions. […] HSBC is a much more secure institution than it was in 2012. ” HSBC
JPMorgan, model student
“We recognized in this 2014 report that our current anti-money laundering controls need to be improved and have since devoted considerable resources to complying with laws and regulations governing anti-money laundering, funding terrorism and economic sanctions. […] JPM has played a leading role in reforming the AML to lead the regime towards more proactive intelligence-led investigations, and develop innovative techniques, to help fight financial crime. ” JPMorgan Chase & Co.
While these suspicious activity reports are not in the strict sense of the evidence. The numerous data which are present there are however authentic. They help bring to light embarrassing facts and truths that are not good to say.
FinCEN files at a glance
- Despite warnings and reports from their departments, the world’s largest banks have carried out highly suspicious transactions worth several trillions of dollars. They have allowed criminals of all persuasions to launder their dirty money. Banks have generated large profits in transfer fees. They also allow certain privileged clients to escape financial penalties.
- The Treasury Department had received reports of suspicious activity describing these transactions. However, FinCEN, the only body empowered to freeze these activities, did not react.
- Even taken with their hands in the bag, and after paying several billion dollars in fines , the banks are doing it again.
- Their leaders are the first to be aware of these activities, and they deliberately closed eyes.
- The organizations that launder the dirty money of the worst criminals are clients of several of these big banks at the same time.
- Finally, these money laundering networks are present in all countries of the world, and the shell companies used for these purposes populate all industrial sectors.
The revelations of FinCEN files are serious. The sums involved are colossal. The ramifications of the criminal organizations exposed are sprawling. The inaction of regulatory authorities is evident.
Public opinion about the banks is already abysmal, and it will get worse.
This scandal also highlights a two-speed regulation.
A small entrepreneur can be financially put to death for a few thousand black euros … But a big bank can help a war criminal to launder his money and get a ridiculous fine.
The small saver must pass an obstacle course and sacrifice his privacy to buy some cryptos, but the mafia who brew millions are favored by the biggest banks in the world, in the most total discretion.
To fight against financial crime, politicians and the media therefore point the finger at dangerous capitalism . Or worse, liberalism! We therefore need more laws, more control, more interventionism by States and regulators!
This is the great deception. The globalized financial system is not capitalist, let alone liberal. Capital circulates freely only for a few elected officials. There are many monopolies. Markets are manipulated. Justice is two-tier. Private property is variable geometry. The system regularly violates the consent of the average citizen.
This system is the result of collusion between mafia states, corrupt elites, dishonest private groups, and financial cartels that are never punished for their actions.
Welcome to the marvelous, cynical and burlesque world of colluding capitalism.
- The original Buzzfeed News article
- The aggregator of Buzzfeed News
- The report ICIJ
- The ICIJ aggregator
- The ICIJ FinCEN files interactive data explorer and the trombinoscope
- A large sample of the files in question