- The leaked FinCEN Files, published in part on Monday, show how big banks have helped move dirty money around the world for criminal networks.
- While big global banks are responsible for the bulk of the transactions, which helped launder money, circumvent international sanctions, and facilitate corruption, some large Australian banks were also named.
- There’s no suggestion those banks engaged in wrongdoing but some, like the Commonwealth Bank and Macquarie, were shown to have moved more than $200 million worth of potentially suspect money.
This week, an enormous tranche of top-secret US Treasury documents, known as the FinCEN Files, were leaked to the media.
Like alliterative leaks before them – vthink the Panama Papers – they document potentially suspect financial transactions, otherwise hidden through a web of shell companies.
In this case, there are more than $US2 trillion worth of transactions between 1999 and 2017 that were flagged internally by banks as being potentially linked to money laundering or criminal activity. Much is still being combed through by the Independent Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ).
As in the case of the Panama Papers, being named in the leaks doesn’t imply guilt on its own.
What it has exposed so far however is that the world’s big banks helped facilitate dodgy deals for criminal networks, despite growing anti-money laundering efforts by governments. In some instances, banks continued to do so even after being warned by authorities and threatened with prosecution.
Given they arere US Treasury documents, big international banks like Deutsche, JP Morgan, HSBC, Standard Chartered, and Bank of New York Mellon all feature heavily.
Deutsche for example is behind $US1.3 trillion of those transactions, and JP Morgan some $US514 billion.
While Australian institutions played a smaller role, some of the country’s largest banks have been named in one $US35 billion sample of 18,000 transactions made public.
The Commonwealth Bank, for example, was involved in 79 of the transactions. Individuals used Australia’s largest retail bank to send more than $58 million ($US42 million) and receive $2.4 million ($US1.75 million).
ANZ Bank received $2.88 million ($US2.1 million) for customers, while NAB facilitated around $2.2 million ($US1.6 million) in payments.
Westpac and its subsidiaries meanwhile facilitated more than $685,000.
However, one Australian bank has punched above its weight class in the file sample. Macquarie Bank was behind more than $167 million ($US122 million) in transactions, dwarfing all of the big four banks combined.
Those transactions flowed to and from Australia via banks like UK giant Barclays, and was moved as far afield as Russia, Latvia, and Denmark.
While there’s no suggestion of wrongdoing on the part of the banks, it does raise concerns over the source of the money and what activities the banks may have helped facilitate.
Business Insider Australia contacted each of the five named, but none commented by the time of publication. Some said they were still reviewing the leaks themselves.
It comes as Westpac remains under investigation by AUSTRAC over allegations it violated anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism laws more than 23 million times in just five years.
The Commonwealth Bank on the other hand was fined $700 million, the largest penalty in Australian corporate history, just two years ago after the watchdog found its smart ATMs had been used to shift drug money offshore for criminal syndicates.
With much to go through, the revelations so far appear to be just the tip of the iceberg.