FinCEN Files, a new investigation led by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, reveals the role of global banks in industrial-scale money laundering.
ICIJ and 108 media partners spent 16 months investigating confidential U.S. Treasury documents shared by BuzzFeed News. Initial leads on suspicious money transfers from Nepal, Venezuela and Ghana – to name a few – meant only one thing: these documents had to be examined by journalists from those countries who could make sense of the information contained in them.
Our global network of reporters worked together to explore more than $2 trillion transactions dated from 1999 to 2017 that had been flagged in the more than 2,100 reports by nearly 90 financial institutions.
Here’s a roundup of FinCEN Files stories from ICIJ partners in Asia.
In the Philippines, journalists working for the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism reported that the banks’ suspicious activity reports showed “how vulnerable the Philippine financial system had been to money laundering as moving funds apparently can be done without naming or verifying the source and beneficiary as well as specifying the purpose of the transfers.”
Just a few years ago, Filipino remittance firms were investigated in the aftermath of the 2016 cyber-heist that siphoned off $81 million from Bangladesh’s central bank.
The FinCEN Files showed that those firms had a precedent. Years before “one of the biggest thefts in history,” they had moved millions of dollars in “suspicious” transactions, “raising the question as to why they were not stopped in their tracks much earlier,” the PCIJ report said.
In Malaysia, ICIJ’s media partner Malaysiakini found a similar case. U.S. banks didn’t act promptly on suspicious money transactions linked to financier Jho Low and possibly connected to the looting of Malaysia’s 1MDB fund until it was too late, they reported.
JPMorgan Chase, for instance, moved more than $1 billion for the fugitive financier behind the scandal, FinCEN Files show.
In Taiwan, CommonWealth magazine reporters found that local banks cleared transactions for a cryptocurrency firm currently sued in the U.S. for alleged market manipulation.