Buzzfeed News received more than 1,000 pages of documents from an anonymous informant at the US Treasury Department, indicating that banks either did not report suspicious transfers to the authorities, or did so with great delay. Journalists from 110 publications and 88 countries of the world took part in the investigation. 400 journalists studied payment data from 2000 to 2017 for almost a year and a half. The results of this work show how easily criminals, money launderers, drug cartels and corrupt politicians can access the world's financial markets.
The world banks are involved in the scandal: JP Morgan, HSBC, Deutsche Bank, Standard Chartered Bank, Bank of New York Mellon, Barclays. Interestingly, JP Morgan, HSBC, and Deutsche Bank have already paid billions in fines on the same charges against them.
According to the documents received, the management of Deutsche Bank had known for many years that there was a money laundering problem at the bank's Russian branch. In addition, the bank spent billions for anonymous clients of Danske Bank Estland, although they were suspected of money laundering. JP Morgan, the largest American bank, transferred money for companies associated with members of organized crime groups and served as a confidant of ex-President Viktor Yanukovych, who had fled Ukraine. The English international bank Standard Chartered worked for clients of Arab Bank, although the US authorities accused the bank of money laundering and transfers for terrorists. HSBC transferred money for an illegal million dollar pyramid scheme, although the bank knew for sure about their origin and had already paid a fine to the American authorities for money laundering.
Analysis of the data obtained showed that in half of the cases the banks did not have information from the sender or recipient of the money. And even if they requested this data from other banks, they often did not receive it. The more journalists analyzed the information, the clearer the global contradiction became for them: on the one hand, banks are the first line of defense in the fight against money laundering. On the other hand, they earn money from translations. Banks are given the right to stop the transfer, but they are not obliged to do so. The only thing they have to do in this situation is to write a report to the authorities.
According to the new data, according to NDR, the American authorities suspect Deutsche Bank of laundering money for Russian oligarchs. They believe that the bank's client in Russia was an unnamed individual who was involved in money laundering for terrorist groups. The investigation showed that the money launderers used the bank for a significantly longer time and at a greater volume than was previously known. In resolving the crisis, not only the past, but also the current management of the bank were involved. Deutsche bank denies that the bank's current director, Christian Zewing, was involved in the 2014 Russian branch investigation.
However, Deutsche Bank's sins do not end there. He has traded billions of dollars for anonymous clients of Danske Bank Estland. The bank also went through payments for $ 560 million of the Brazilian construction company Odebrecht, which was involved in corruption scandals in Latin America and Africa, when the owners of the firm gave money for the election of presidential and parliamentary companies for contracts. In the United States, this case is called the largest corruption scandal in history.
America's largest bank served the offshore company ABSI Securities. From January 2010 to July 2015, more than a billion dollars passed through the accounts of this company both in the bank itself and through correspondent accounts. In 2015, it became known from the press that ABSI is a company associated with Semyon Mogilevich. Already in 2009, the FBI included Mogilevich in the list of the most wanted criminals around the world. He is accused of arms and drug trafficking, blackmail and contract killings. Securities is a subsidiary of ABSI, the bank told the authorities. When the bank's employees started looking for information about the owners of ABSI Securities, they found nothing in the bank. The company's business was not known either. The only information that was in the bank was that the company was registered in Cyprus, at that time, the world center for money laundering. Mogilevich announced through his secretary that he knew nothing about a company with that name. Earlier, he also stated that he was neither the leader nor an active member of any criminal group.
Banks and Rotenbergs
In 2014, Arkady Rotenberg and his brother Boris, as “members of the inner circle” of the Russian president, were included in the sanctions list. English bank Barclays said that it has complied with all the instructions of the authorities. However, the investigation revealed that the companies that link to the Rothenbergs kept secret bank accounts. The US Treasury said the brothers earned billions from contracts with Gazprom, as well as "construction of facilities for the Winter Olympics in Sochi".
In 2018, Arkady's son Igor was also included in the list. The sanctions were introduced to cut off the people on the list from the global financial system. It turns out that the Rotenbergs continue to transfer money to both the UK and the US.
In 2008 Barclays Bank opened an account for the Advantage Alliance. From 2012 to 2016, 60 million pounds went through the company's accounts. Most of the transactions took place after the Rotenbergs came under sanctions. In July of this year, the US Senate published its investigation, accusing the Rothenbergs of deals with works of art to circumvent sanctions. One of the companies through which the deals were made was the Advantage Alliance. Investigators concluded that there is evidence that the company belongs to Arkady Rotenberg. An account in an English bank was used to buy a painting for millions of dollars. The Americans accused the auction houses of not being able to get answers to basic questions from their client. It is said that despite the sanctions, Arkady Rotenberg was able to pay $ 7.5 million for the painting by Rene Magritte. On June 17, 2014, a company associated with Rothenberg transferred money from Moscow to Alliance accounts in the UK, and on the same day the money went to New York.
In April 2016, Barclays Bank launched an internal investigation into some of the suspicious accounts associated with the Rothenbergs. Six months later, the Alliance account was also closed . However, the information received from the anonymous source shows that other accounts remained open until 2017. For example, Ayrton Development Limited. The bank suspected that Arkady Rotenberg was its real owner.
The bank said that it complied with all the instructions of the authorities. According to the bank, it may close the client's accounts "after an internal investigation and risk assessment, so as not to harm bona fide clients".
The Rotenbergs deny any connection with the named firms.
Bank of New York Mellon
This is the only bank that has not been punished by the US authorities. But researchers have found many messages pointing to oligarchs, money laundering, corruption, bribery and even murder - all in connection with money transfers through this bank. In July 2016, the bank made 700 communications to the authorities regarding Jho Low, the organizer of the withdrawal from the Malaysian sovereign wealth fund. However, it was known about this scam of the century a year earlier. The bank itself made 30 transfers worth $ 340 million for Low's companies. From 1997 to 2016, the bank carried out transactions worth more than $ 1.3 billion for Oleg Deripaska. Deripaska denies his involvement in illegal financial transactions. He filed a lawsuit against the US government, in which he challenges the imposition of sanctions against him.
On the way of money
This investigation concerns the world's largest banks. It is all the more surprising that gigantic sums are transferred from one offshore to another, and banks do not know who is hiding behind these firms. Banks first transfer money, and only then report the transfers to the authorities - sometimes after several months, sometimes after several years. However, payment for the transfer was received immediately. World banks are taking advantage of their privileged position over central banks and regulators to make money. Sometimes this is the only possible way to transfer dollars from one country to another.
There were 2.3 million suspicious transaction reports in the U.S. in 2019. The Department for Combating Money Laundering of the US Treasury Department employs 270 people. In Germany, almost 115,000 such reports were filed last year. A criminal case was opened against 156 companies and individuals , 133 were charged, and a verdict was passed against only 54 legal entities and individuals.
Regardless of what fines the banks paid and will pay to the state, compared to the profit they receive from these transactions, these fines are negligible. In addition, they are paid not by the bank's managers, but by the shareholders. Money-laundering expert Graeme Barrow believes that the supervisory boards of banks should be more decisive in addressing shortcomings: “It's not just the criminals who wash money. Banks are the system by which they take them to a safe place. We all pay for this, because these are our taxes".
Department of the US Treasury issued a press release and warned journalists against full publication of materials. In their opinion, the publication of documents harms national security and the security of the global financial system. The Finance Ministry declined to comment on individual cases. In addition, this case has been referred to the prosecutor's office.