21 September 2020
The FinCEN files are the result of extensive international research on money laundering and financial crime. They show how dirty money is shuffled around the world and how banks fail to stop this flow of money.
The unchecked movement of dirty money may not register as an immediate threat in a world beset by headline-grabbing crises. But the consequences are profound, as narcotraffickers, smugglers and Ponzi schemers shift illicit profits beyond the reach of authorities, and despots and corrupt captains of industry swell their own ill-gotten fortunes and consolidate power, aided by the powerful and the banking system.
In 2019 the US media outlet BuzzFeed News obtained a large cache of secret US Department of the Treasury (USDT) financial records and shared them with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ). These are the FinCEN Files, documents from the USDT’s regulatory bureau for safeguarding the financial system — the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network.
Over the past 16 months, 400 journalists from 88 countries burrowed into the leaked records, conducted interviews with investigators and victims, pored over court and archival records and reviewed data on millions of transactions that took place between 1999 and 2017.
Often the person tied to a suspicious transaction was one step removed from the boldfaced name: a child, an associate, or a spouse — as in the case of Atiku Abubakar. The former Nigerian vice president was indicted by a Nigerian Senate committee for diverting over $100 million from an oil development fund. Years after corruption allegations against her husband surfaced, Rukaiyatu Abubakar moved more than $1 million of her husband’s money through Habib Bank to a company in the United Arab Emirates to buy an apartment in Dubai. Atiku Abubakar has never been convicted and denies wrongdoing.
Above are excerpts from a report published in DW, the German public service broadcaster.