FINCEN FILES: GLOBAL BANKS MOVED ILLICIT MONIES FOR TERRORISTS AND CRIMINALS, LEAKED DOCUMENTS REVEAL
A leaked financial document has revealed that five global banks moved trillions of dollars of illicit funds for criminals suspected of terrorism, human trafficking, and other criminal activities.
Investigations from Buzzfeed News and the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) reveal that five international banks; JPMorgan Chase, HSBC, Standard Chartered, Deutsche Bank and Bank of New York Mellon continued to move assets of alleged criminals, even after being prosecuted or convicted for financial misconduct.
Buzznews got access to more than 2100 highly confidential Suspicious Activity Reports (SARs) secretly sent to the US Treasury Department's financial law enforcement agency, FinCEN, by banks from around the world between 2000 and 2017.
"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," ICIJ report said.
WHAT ARE SUSPICIOUS ACTIVITY REPORTS SARs?
A suspicious activity report SAR is a strictly confidential document used by banks, securities brokers, and other financial institutions to alert US authorities of questionable financial activities.
Financial institutions are mandated to file suspicious activity reports to the US or risk civil penalties.
Although a suspicious activity report is not an accusation of a crime, it alerts government security agencies and enables the government to follow the money and avert possible crimes.
AFRICANS INCLUDED IN THE SUSPICIOUS ACTIVITY REPORT Rukaiyatu Abubakar
Leaked SAR documents sent by Habib bank limited in New York revealed that Rukaiyatu Abubakar the wife of former Vice President of Nigeria Atiku Abubakar made 39 transactions to the tune of $24.6m between the period of 2012-2016.
According to the leaked FinCEN files, Habib bank reported the transactions because they "crossed multiple high-rise jurisdictions" and because public sources revealed that there had been numerous investigations of Mr Abubakar… linking him to corruption allegations."
Atiku and his team did not give any response.
Leaked FinCEN files revealed that Barclays Bank PLC conducted over 857 financial transactions totalling $256.1m for South African businessman Ivor Ichikowitz despite reports stating concerns of his source of wealth and corrupt practices.
Responding to the leaked SARs reports, Ichikowitz lawyer said neither his client nor his companies "have ever be subject to an investigation by the FBI or any ott worldwide enforcement agency".
Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo
Leaked SARs reports from an unnamed Western Union Agent revealed that Western Union identified up to 632 financial transactions totalling to more than $400,000 linked to Congolese politician Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo.
According to the FinCEN reports, the transactions were carried out after the year 2015. Coincidentally, Bemba Gombo was convicted by the International Criminal Court for violence, rape and pillage in the Central African Republic in 2016.
Bembo won his appeal in 2018, as he claimed he was not responsible for the actions of soldiers he sent to curb a coup.
Prosecutors accused Bemba of paying witnesses via Western Union and Moneygram. Phone recordings from prosecutors stated that Bemba referred to Western Union with the code name "whisky"- claims Bemba denied vehemently.
The SARs report also flagged a Western Union transaction of a senior member of Bemba's defence, Jean-Jacques Mangenda Kabongo. The leaked document revealed that Kabongo sent more than $100,000 to 92 recipients via agents in the Netherlands, the Republic of the Congo, Greece and elsewhere between 2005 and 2013.
SARs only reflect the concerns of compliance officers and are not indicative of a crime. Bemba has denied witness tampering and paying bribes through Western Union or MoneyGram.
Leaked FinCEN report showed that Citibank flagged 112 transactions linked to the former President, International Association of Athletics Federations Lamine Diack totalling $55.7m.
Lamine 87, was sentenced to prison on Wednesday, September 16 for bribery and corruption related to the Russian doping scandal.
Before the leaked documents were published, the US Treasury Department's financial law enforcement agency on September 1 released a statement warning that the unauthorized publications of SARs is a crime that could compromise national security as well as the security of the compliance officers who file the reports.
"The unauthorized disclosure of SARs is a crime that can impact the national security of the United States, compromise law enforcement investigations, and threaten the safety and security of the institutions and individuals who file such reports."
In another letter, FinCEN's general counsel said publishing reports on SARs "could mean law enforcement has fewer potential leads to stop crimes like human trafficking, child exploitation, fraud, corruption, terrorism, and cyber-enabled crime."