Financial Crimes and FinCEN Files - Everything You Need to Know About the Case in Six Points

BANKING

Data Leak Unearths Thousands of Transactions Judged Suspicious by the World’s Largest Banks and unleashes an International Money Laundering Round

Financial Crimes and FinCEN Files - Everything You Need to Know About the Case in Six Points
Financial Crimes and FinCEN Files, that’s what it’s all about © Shutterstock.com

Financial Crimes and FinCEN Files - Everything You Need to Know About the Case in Six Points

Financial Crimes and FinCEN Files, that’s what it’s all about © Shutterstock.com

A new case emerges - along the same lines as the Panama Papers. The FinCEN Files. Here is a little more info:

1. What are FinCEN Files?

There are about 2,100 reports on suspicious transactions, issued by American banks , mainly between 1999 and 2017. They were directed to the FinCEN (Financial Crimes Enforcement Network), a government agency charged with combating financial crimes. Banks notify you of transactions that can hide or move funds from criminal organisations, corruption, fraud, etc.

2. Does this situation concern Switzerland?

Several hundred reports of suspicious transactions have a link to Switzerland. They involve dollar transactions that Swiss banks must pass through American correspondent banks. Some Swiss companies, particularly gold or commodity traders, are the subject of these reports.

3. Does all the money come from crimes?

No, they are just transactions deemed suspicious. American banks issue around 2 million reports of this type every year (Switzerland instead issues a few thousand). The FinCEN Files therefore constitute only a small part of the reports. American banks sometimes report transactions for which they do not receive information from their Swiss counterparts due to banking secrecy. They also issue reports for minimal suspicions or based on press reports.

4. So what do the FinCEN Files reveal?

The data leak first reveals the huge international financial flow. The 2,100 announcements of the FinCEN Files concern more than $ 2 trillion of suspicious funds, equal to three times the GDP of Switzerland. Daniel Thelesklaf, Switzerland’s main head of anti-money laundering until last June, estimates that Switzerland only identifies and blocks a fraction of criminal funds from abroad. The FinCEN documents show, for example, how money from Venezuela, a country where corruption is high, arrived in Switzerland without hindrance.

5. Where does the data come from?

According to the news site BuzzFeed News, some of these suspicious transaction announcements were requested by the United States House of Representatives, one of the two branches of the United States Congress, during an investigation into President Donald Trump’s financial transactions. The data also contains numerous reports on Russian oligarchs and Trump’s bank, Deutsche Bank. But these reports did not lead to the opening of investigations. BuzzFeed News shared the data with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (CIGI), which includes Tamedia’s investigation cell. About 400 journalists from 88 countries worked on the data leak for several months.

6. How did the data come to BuzzFeed News?

BuzzFeed News does not reveal its source. In January, however, a FinCEN employee admitted that she had transmitted data to a media channel. According to her, the public had a right to be informed about this.

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