A “huge trove” of government documents has revealed that a host of Western banks moved trillions of dollars in suspicious transactions, according to a Buzzfeed News exposé.
According to Buzzfeed’s investigation, dubbed the FinCEN Files, the banks in question “enriched themselves and their shareholders while facilitating the work of terrorists, kleptocrats, and drug kingpins”.
The FinCEN Files reportedly comprise a leak of 2,657 documents, 2,100 of which are suspicious activity reports.
The leak found that one such bank allowed WCM777, a Ponzi scheme, to move more than $15m (£11.7m) “even as the business was being barred from operating in three states”.
According to authorities, the scam stole “at least” $80m (£62.3m) from investors, while the owner of the company used the funds to buy two golf courses, a 7,000-square-foot mansion, a 39.8-carat diamond, and mining rights in Sierra Leone.
In addition, several other banks were found to have collectively processed millions of dollars in transactions for the family of Viktor Khrapunov despite Interpol issuing a Red Notice for his arrest.
Buzzfeed News alleges that the “US government, despite its vast powers, failed to stop” the transactions in question. It added that the FinCEN Files “offer an unprecedented view of global financial corruption, the banks enabling it, and the government agencies that watch as it flourishes”.
BuzzFeed News has shared its findings with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists and more than 100 news organisations in 88 countries.
It added: “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.”
Martin Woods, a former suspicious transactions investigator for Wachovia, told Buzzfeed: “Some of these people in those crisp white shirts in their sharp suits are feeding off the tragedy of people dying all over the world.”
Buzzfeed News noted that in rare instances when the US government “does crack down” on banks, it “often relies on sweetheart deals”, otherwise known as deferred prosecution agreements, which include fines but no high-level arrests.
It added that the Trump administration has “made it even harder to hold executives personally accountable, under guidance by former deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein that warned government agencies against ‘piling on’”.
In addition to this, the FinCEN investigation reveals that following prosecution or fines for financial misconduct, Wall Street banks “continued to move money for suspected criminals”.