Financial crime: FinCEN papers show a problem that has been brewing for years
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Financial crime: FinCEN papers show a problem that has been brewing for years

There’s no point attacking banks for filing suspicious activity reports as they are required to, but they must work better together with law enforcement to fight financial crime.


Scores of investigative journalists have been poring over a cache of more than 2,100 suspicious activity reports filed by nearly 90 banks to the US Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN).

The documents were shared by BuzzFeed News and include information on more than $2 trillion in transactions dated from 1999 to 2017 that had been flagged by the banks as suspicious.

That’s a big number.

It should surprise precisely no one.

Last October, the Institute of International Finance (IIF) estimated the amount of money laundered globally each year to be somewhere between 2% to 5% of global GDP, or between $885 billion and $2.2 trillion.

This is not a $2 trillion every two decades problem. It’s $2 trillion a year.

Fine fears

Bank share prices have fallen today, partly thanks to fears of big new fines, partly thanks to the resurgence of Covid. Several have pointed out that these documents are not something the banks have covered up, rather just the opposite.

They themselves have reported up the chain to national financial intelligence units (FIUs), precisely as the law requires them to.

To take just one example, Standard Chartered says that in 2019 it monitored more than 1.2

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