Leaked documents from the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, dubbed the FinCEN files, have revealed that several of the world’s major banks allowed over 200,000 suspicious financial transactions valued at around $2 trillion to be moved over a period of almost two decades, with 897 of those transactions made by Cypriot banks.
The FinCEN files consist of over 2,100 documents leaked to Buzzfeed News which then moved to share what it called the “huge trove of secret government documents” with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) that brought together more than 400 reporters from 88 countries to investigate the documents, most of which were suspicious activity reports (SARs) sent by banks to US authorities between 1999 and 2017.
When any concerns arise about transactions made in US dollars, even if they took place outside the US, banks are by law required to file SARs with FinCen, a bureau of the US Department of Treasury’s. Though flagged transactions could potentially point to money laundering or other financial misconduct, they are not by themselves evidence of a crime.
But the FinCEN files show that major banks, including JPMorgan Chase, HSBC, Standard Chartered, Deutsche Bank και Bank of New York Mellon, kept the money moving and kept collecting their fees while the flagged transactions were to be looked into by authorities, despite the fact that they could have blocked the transactions entirely. Fingers are also pointed toward the US government for not forcing banks to block the transactions. The ICIJ report said in some cases the banks failed to report suspect transactions until years after they had processed them.
According to the ICIJ, the documents are only a small fraction (0.02%) of the more than 12 million SARs submitted over the period of two decades. Buzzfeed reported that the trillions of US dollars in suspicious transactions served to enrich major global banks and their shareholders, while facilitating the movement of dirty money for terrorists, kleptocrats, and drug kingpins.
Among the files, there SARs showing that 897 suspicious transactions flowed to and from Cyprus, with Cypriot banks receiving $1,021,397,580 and sending $398,518,966.
The bank which handled most of the transactions was the FBME Bank in Cyprus, which was in 2014 accused by FinCEN of facilitating financial transactions for multinational organised crime organizations and Hezbollah, with the bank’s branch license revoked in 2015. But the FinCEN files also implicate other Cyprus banks which are still operating.