Last week, a set of documents known as the FinCEN files were released, detailing how some of the biggest banks in the world move trillions of dollars in suspicious transactions for suspected terrorists, kleptocrats and drug kingpins. And the U.S. government has failed to stop it.
The Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (“FinCEN”), an agency within the Treasury Department, charged with combating money laundering, terrorist financing, and other financial crimes. A collection of “suspicious activity reports” offers a window into financial corruption, and how governments are unable or unwilling to stop it. Profits from deadly drug wars, fortunes embezzled from developing countries, and hard-earned savings stolen in Ponzi schemes, all flow through financial institutions, despite warnings from bank employees.
These reports are available to US law enforcement agencies and other nations’ financial intelligence operations. Although FinCEN is aware of the money laundering activities, it lacks the authority to stop it.
Money laundering is more than a financial crime. It is a tool that makes all other crimes possible – from drug trafficking to political crimes. And banks make it all possible. In a detailed expose, BuzzFeedNews named several of the most trusted banks. Current investigations show that even after fines and prosecutions, well-known JPMorgan Chase JPM +2.9%, HSBC, Standard Chartered, Deutsche Bank, and Bank of New York Mellon BK +2.7% are all involved in moving funds for suspected criminals.
The current financial system largely insulates the banks and its executives from prosecution, so long as the bank files a notice with FinCEN that it may be facilitating criminal activity. The suspicious activity alert effectively gives the banks a free pass. And so, illegal funds continue to flow through banks into various industries from oil to entertainment to real estate, further separating the rich from the poor, while the banks we have grown to trust, make it all possible.