Accessibility links

Breaking News

Watchdog

Global banks moved over a nearly two-decade period more than $2 trillion in payments they believed were suspicious, according to a new investigative report that raises questions about whether financial institutions and governments are doing enough to stop illicit money flows.

The report, published September 20 by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, is based on thousands of leaked documents from the U.S. Treasury Department's arm that investigates money laundering.

The documents show how major Western banks, including JPMorgan and Deutsche Bank, helped criminal networks around the world, including from the former Soviet Union, move and hide money.

It is at least the fifth major leak over the past six years exposing the depth of global corruption.

The 2,100 documents from the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) were leaked to BuzzFeed and later shared them with more than 400 reporters around the globe for further investigation.

The FinCEN documents consist of Suspicious Activity Reports (SARS) dating from 1999 to 2017. Banks file SARS with FinCEN when they have concerns about the legality of a transaction.

In half of the FinCEN reports received by BuzzFeed, the banks didn’t have information about one or more entities behind the transactions, according to the ICIJ, raising concerns about lax enforcement by financial institutions.

The U.S. and Western governments have passed legislation in recent years that puts more pressure on banks to clamp down on illicit flows or face hefty fines.

Banks globally filed more than 2 million SARS last year. FinCEN, which has 333 employees, is understaffed and underfunded for the fight against corruption, analysts say.

The FinCEN documents published by the ICIJ on September 20 show that a company co-owned by Turkish gold smuggler Reza Zarrab made $1.25 billion in suspicious wire transactions involving Russian and offshore entities.

The documents also show that $11 billion in suspicious transactions flowed to and from Russia over the two-decade period, while $470 million flowed to and from Ukraine.

The news organizations working on the FinCEN documents plan to publish more stories in the coming days about who else was behind the suspicious financial flows.

The FinCEN dump is the latest breach of secretive global financial records since the 2017 leak of documents from Appleby and Estera, two offshore legal and corporate service providers.

Known as the Paradise Papers, they revealed the offshore financial dealings of politicians, celebrities and business leaders.

Thousands of people have been detained and many of them have been beaten by Lukashenka's security forces, their faces often obscured by masks, balaclavas, or riot helmets. Here, a riot police officer detains an opposition supporter in Minsk on August 30.

MINSK -- Hackers leaked the personal data of 1,000 members of the Belarusian police force in retaliation for a crackdown on street demonstrations against strongman President Alyaksandr Lukashenka ahead of another mass rally scheduled on September 20.

"As the arrests continue, we will continue to publish data on a massive scale," said a statement that was distributed by the opposition news channel Nexta Live on the messaging app Telegram. "No one will remain anonymous even under a balaclava."

The Ministry of Internal Affairs said the government will identify and punish those responsible for leaking the data, which was widely distributed on Telegram channels late on September 19.

"The forces, means, and technologies at the disposal of the internal affairs bodies make it possible to identify and prosecute the overwhelming majority of those guilty of leaking personal data on the Internet," said Volha Chamadanava, a ministry spokeswoman.

Hundreds Detained During Women’s Protest In Minsk
please wait

No media source currently available

0:00 0:01:51 0:00


The published list contains information on 1,003 police officers, including their surnames, names, patronymics, dates of birth, the units in which they serve, their ranks, and positions.

The development came after several thousand women marched in central Minsk on September 19 to demand Lukashenka's resignation, briefly scuffling with riot police who then blocked their path.

Black uniformed riot police swiftly forced hundreds of women, who had stood with linked hands, into police vans.

Women shouted, "Shame!" as police forced protesters into vans. "We won't forget! We won't forgive!" shouted the women, who were carrying red-and-white flags and banners, a symbol of the opposition that has been banned by the authorities.

Vyasna, a human rights organization in Belarus, said more than 300 people were arrested during the September 19 march.

Belarusian Student Says He Was Beaten In A 'Torture Truck'
please wait

No media source currently available

0:00 0:04:14 0:00

Thousands have been detained and many of them have been beaten by Lukashenka's security forces, their faces often obscured by masks, balaclavas, or riot helmets. Protesters have physically torn off the masks of some officers.

Lukashenka's crackdown on the protests has prompted the European Union to mull fresh sanctions against his regime.

The loyalty of the security forces is crucial to Lukashenka's ability to stay in power following the August 9 presidential poll which the veteran leader claimed he won by a landslide.

The opposition says the election was rigged to hand the former Soviet collective farm boss, who has been in power since 1994, a sixth term.

With reporting by Reuters and Interfax

Load more

About This Blog

"Watchdog" is a blog with a singular mission -- to monitor the latest developments concerning human rights, civil society, and press freedom. We'll pay particular attention to reports concerning countries in RFE/RL's broadcast region.

Subscribe

Journalists In Trouble

RFE/RL journalists take risks, face threats, and make sacrifices every day in an effort to gather the news. Our "Journalists In Trouble" page recognizes their courage and conviction, and documents the high price that many have paid simply for doing their jobs. More

XS
SM
MD
LG