A Massive Trove of Newly Leaked Documents Shows How Big Banks Help Criminals Move Dirty Money

BuzzFeed News just published an investigation detailing how banks facilitated “the work of terrorists, kleptocrats, and drug kingpins.”

alptraum/Getty

Fight disinformation: Sign up for the free Mother Jones Daily newsletter and follow the news that matters.

On Sunday, BuzzFeed News published an investigative report showing how some of the world’s most powerful banks were aware of—but failed to stop—suspicious transactions totaling more than $2 trillion. Banks profited from these transactions, “facilitating the work of terrorists, kleptocrats, and drug kingpins,” BuzzFeed writes, and the US government, though aware, rarely intervened.

The investigation was based on a leak of more than 2,100 documents dubbed the “FinCEN Files” that BuzzFeed shared with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists. FinCEN stands for the US Financial Crimes Investigation Network, an agency at the Treasury Department. Banks flag suspicious transactions made in US dollars to the agency, but most are not investigated; meanwhile, just by filing a report, a bank “all but immunizes itself and its executives from criminal prosecution,” BuzzFeed writes. 

A trove of those reports, from transactions between 1999 and 2017, make up the FinCEN Files. Journalists digging into the documents found that they documented transactions facilitating suspected Russian and Taliban money launderers, a Ponzi scheme, and corrupt politicians. Meanwhile, even banks that were previously fined for failing to stop the flow of dirty money—including JPMorgan, HSBC, Standard Chartered Bank, Deutsche Bank, and Bank of New York Mellon—continued the same behavior, and continued to profit from it. 

Read the investigations here and here

MOTHER JONES NEEDS YOUR HELP

Straight to the point: Donations have been concerningly slow for our hugely important First $500,000 fundraising campaign. We urgently need your help, and a lot of help, over the next few weeks so we can pay for the one-of-a-kind journalism you get from us.

Learn more in “Less Dreading, More Doing,” where we lay out this wild moment and how we can keep charging hard for you. And please help if you can: $5, $50, or $500—every gift from every person truly matters right now.

payment methods

MOTHER JONES NEEDS YOUR HELP

Straight to the point: Donations have been concerningly slow for our hugely important First $500,000 fundraising campaign. We urgently need your help, and a lot of help, over the next few weeks so we can pay for the one-of-a-kind journalism you get from us.

Learn more in “Less Dreading, More Doing,” where we lay out this wild moment and how we can keep charging hard for you. And please help if you can: $5, $50, or $500—every gift from every person truly matters right now.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate