MON, 21 SEPT, 2020-theGBJournal-The FinCEN Files is a cache of financial intelligence reports that reveals the role of global banks in industrial-scale money laundering and the bloodshed and suffering that flow in its wake.
It is the latest cross-border investigation conducted by International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) that exposes how the world’s biggest banks, tasked with stopping suspicious activity, actually profit hugely from it.
At the heart of the FinCEN Files are 2,100 extremely secret documents, known as suspicious activity reports, that were obtained by BuzzFeed News and shared with ICIJ. These documents offer extraordinary insight into the secret world of international banking.
The records include more than 2,100 suspicious activity reports filed by nearly 90 financial institutions to the United States’ Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, known as FinCEN. The documents were shared by BuzzFeed News with ICIJ and 108 media partners in 88 countries and include information on more than $2 trillion in transactions dated from 1999-2017 that had been flagged by the banks as suspicious.
The reports reflect the private concerns of global bank money-laundering compliance officers. The SARs include a narrative along with attached spreadsheets of sometimes hundreds of lines of raw transaction data.
Each report provides a summary of the total amount in suspicious transactions and the time range in which they occurred, but didn’t always come with comprehensive details about each transaction.
To extract as much information as possible from the narratives of the suspicious activity reports in FinCEN Files, ICIJ, BuzzFeed News and media partners collaborated to manually collate data on transactions and correspondent connections from each report.
The team working on this data extraction involved more than 85 journalists in 30 countries, who collectively were able to record details on more than 200,000 transactions and more than 6,900 correspondent connections.
The FinCEN Files revealed how $3,774,394 billion was received and $30,834,680 billion sent from Nigeria in 91 sleaze transactions as well as the notorious names behind billions in suspect money.
Rukaiyatu Abubakar named
Rukaiyatu Abubakar is one of four current wives of Atiku Abubakar, vice president of Nigeria from 1999 to 2007. In 2006, Nigerian anti-corruption investigators accused Atiku Abubakar of fraudulently diverting $125 million of state revenue to private interests. U.S. prosecutors also alleged that a Louisiana congressman tried to bribe Atiku Abubakar to help a Nigerian technology company. Atiku Abubakar has never been tried in court and denies wrongdoing. Rukaiyatu Abubakar has not been accused of wrongdoing.
On March 5, 2012, Rukaiyatu Abubakar’s Guernsey Trust Company Nigeria sent more than $1 million to a company in the United Arab Emirates, Tanjay Real Estate Brokers. (GTCN exists to “manage a blind trust” for Atiku Abubkar’s benefit, according to documents received by the U.S. Senate.) Habib Bank Limited in New York filed a suspicious activity report, citing Atiku Abubakar’s history of alleged corruption, after its Dubai office received the payment. The bank’s Dubai branch explained to the office in New York that the payment was to buy an apartment and that the Dubai branch was “unaware of any existing relationship or affiliation between Tanjay and the Abubakar family.”
Habib Bank reported the transactions because they “crossed multiple high-risk jurisdictions” and because “public sources revealed that there have been numerous investigations of Mr. Abubakar … linking him to corruption allegations.”
SARs reflect the concerns of compliance officers and are not necessarily indicative of criminal conduct or other wrongdoing. The Abubakars didn’t respond to an ICIJ request for comment sent to Atiku Abubakar’s spokesman.
Here’s an example of how 91 transactions that flowed to or from banks in Nigeria were flagged as potentially suspicious in the FinCEN Files documents.
1-Guaranty Trust Bank Limited: 2 transactions with $224,930 sent from the bank
2-First City Monument Bank Limited-21 transactions with $26,903,886 sent
3- First Bank of Nigeria Plc-6 transactions with $353,198 sent and $1,739,839 received
4- First City Monument Bank-another 9 transactions with $473,927 sent
5-Wema Bank Plc-48 transactions with $1,930,474 sent
6-Standard Chartered Bank-1 transaction with $923,300 sent
7-Keystone Bank Limited-2 transactions with $20,600 received
8- Zenith Bank Plc-1 transaction with $5,015 sent
These transactions were processed via 4 U.S.-based banks, which filed suspicious activity reports with FinCEN.
1-The Bank of New York Mellon Corp.-3 transactions totalling $229,945 sent
2- Standard Chartered Plc- 80 transactions with $ 29,328,237 sent and $ 3,753,794 received
3- Barclays Plc-6 transactions with $1,276,498 sent
4- Deutsche Bank AG-2 transactions with $20,600 received.
How the money from this sample of transactions moved between Nigeria, the U.S. and 12 other countries.
1-From: Guaranty Trust Bank Limited to Habib Bank A G Zurich- Dec 6, 2011 and Dec 6, 2011- Total amount-$ 99,965
2- From: First City Monument Bank Limited to City National Bank- Sep 4, 2014 and Sep 4, 2014-Amount- $1,580,565
3- From: First City Monument Bank Limited to First Bank of Nigeria Plc- Feb 26, 2014 and Feb 26, 2014- Amount $1,739,839
4- From: First City Monument Bank Limited to Ping An Bank Co Ltd- Jul 3, 2014 and Dec 22, 2014-Amount -$1,969,800
5- From First City Monument Bank Limited to Bnp Paribas SA Formerly Banque Nationale De Paris SA- Oct 21, 2014 and Oct 21, 2014-Total Amount $1,999,947
6- From First City Monument Bank Limited to United Bank For Africa Plc Jan 23, 2015 and Jan 23, 2015- $2,013,955
7- From First City Monument Bank Limited to National Westminster Bank Plc-Feb 10, 2014 and Feb 26, 2014- Amount $2,399,930
8- From First City Monument Bank Limited to Hong Kong Shanghai Banking Corp- Oct 21, 2014 and Nov 12, 2014- Amount $2,999,960
9- From First City Monument Bank Limited to Access Bank UK Limited-Feb 27, 2014 and Dec 22, 2014- Amount $3,199,905
10- From First City Monument Bank Limited to Deutsche Bank AG-Jun 24, 2014 and Feb 11, 2015- Amount-$4,000,000
11- From: First City Monument Bank Limited to Access Bank UK Limited- Feb 14, 2014 and Feb 14, 2014-Amount $4,999,985
12- From United Bank For Africa Plc to Standard Chartered Bank Hk Ltd Nov 6, 2012 and Nov 6, 2012- Amount $ 9,975
13- From First City Monument Bank to China Construction Bank- Jan 1, 2013 and Sep 30, 2014- Amount $100,000
14- From First City Monument Bank to Agricultural Bank of China Limited-Jan 1, 2013 and Sep 30, 2014-Amount $101,041
15- From First City Monument Bank to PT Bank Central Asia Tbk- Jan 1, 2013 and Sep 30, 2014- Amount -$109,946
16- From Zenith Bank Plc to JSC Norvik Banka-Aug 2, 2013 and Aug 2, 2013-Amount-$5,015
17- From Guaranty Trust Bank Limited to Habib Bank A G Zurich- Nov 28, 2011 and Nov 28, 2011-Amount -$124,965
18- From PNC Bank N.A. to Keystone Bank Limited Apr 9, 2012 and Apr 9, 2012-Amount-$15,600
19- From Bank of America N.A. to Keystone Bank Limited Mar 28, 2012 and Mar 28, 2012-Amount-$5,000
20- From Standard Chartered Bank to Barclays Bank Plc- Nov 16, 2015 and Nov 16, 2015-Amount- $923,300
21- From First Bank of Nigeria Plc to Barclays Bank Plc-Oct 16, 2015 and Nov 9, 2015- Amount $353,198
22- From Wema Bank Plc to Bank of China Hong Kong Ltd- Jan 11, 2013 and Sep 2, 2014- Amount $399,650
23- From Wema Bank Plc to Bank of Communications Co Ltd- Jan 11, 2013 and Sep 2, 2014- Amount $394,000
24- From Wema Bank Plc to Hong Kong Shanghai Banking Corp- Jan 11, 2013 and Sep 2, 2014- Amount- $330,000
25- From Wema Bank Plc to Fransabank Sal- Jan 11, 2013 and Sep 2, 2014-Amount- $299,939
26- From Wema Bank Plc TO Standard Bank of South Africa Ltd- Jan 11, 2013 and Sep 2, 2014- Amount – $270,150
27- From Wema Bank Plc to Shanghai Pudong Development Bank Co Ltd-Jan 11, 2013 and Sep 2, 2014- Amount- $236,735
28- From First City Monument Bank to Bank of China Limited Jan 1, 2013 and Sep 30, 2014-Amount-$162,940
Global banks defy U.S. crackdowns by serving oligarchs, criminals and terrorists
The records show that 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.
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.
In some cases the banks kept moving illicit funds even after U.S. officials warned them they’d face criminal prosecutions if they didn’t stop doing business with mobsters, fraudsters or corrupt regimes.
JPMorgan, the largest bank based in the United States, moved money for people and companies tied to the massive looting of public funds in Malaysia, Venezuela and Ukraine, the leaked documents reveal.
The bank moved more than $1 billion for the fugitive financier behind Malaysia’s 1MDB scandal, the records show, and more than $2 million for a young energy mogul’s company that has been accused of cheating Venezuela’s government and helping cause electrical blackouts that crippled large parts of the country.
JPMorgan also processed more than $50 million in payments over a decade, the records show, for Paul Manafort, the former campaign manager for President Donald Trump. The bank shuttled at least $6.9 million in Manafort transactions in the 14 months after he resigned from the campaign amid a swirl of money laundering and corruption allegations spawning from his work with a pro-Russian political party in Ukraine.
Editor’s note: This extract was originally published by the ICIJ.