Show Me the (Suspicious) Money #86

Deepnews Digest #86

Show Me the (Suspicious) Money

Editor: Christopher Brennan
Trillions of dollars floating around the globe, questions about just how legal it all is, and the people who help facilitate it anyway. This week’s Digest was inspired by all the quality journalism that has come out around the FinCen Files, a trove of U.S. government documents obtained by Buzzfeed News, then shared with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists and more than 100 partner organizations. Here are stories about the documents themselves, the implications from Caracas to Kenya, and looks into money laundering more broadly. Gathered with the Deepnews Scoring Model.
Editor’s note
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Published every Thursday

OCCRP

Something for Nothing: Ukrainian Oligarch Dmytro Firtash Profited From Bailout Loans

Ukrainian oligarch Dmytro Firtash siphoned off more than $190 million of state loans his bank received in the wake of the global financial crisis, part of which he ploughed into a deal to privatize a titanium manufacturing company, according to leaked documents.

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Buzzfeed News

The Mirage That Moved Hundreds Of Millions Of Dollars Through Major Banks

With a website claiming more than 200 employees and an office in a business complex in the middle of Singapore, Ask Trading — “a trading and investment company focusing on the Russia/CIS market” — might appear to be a thriving midsize business.

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Editor’s Note:

A big part of the way that shady money is moved around the world is shell companies. Here Buzzfeed looks at an entity called Ask Trading in Singapore and then explores how, despite worries, it moved hundreds of millions of dollars through leading institutions. – Christopher Brennan, Editor

International Consortium of Investigative Journalists

How Banks Helped Venezuela’s ‘Boligarchs’ Extract Billions

Much of the money that left Venezuela has vanished from public sight. FinCEN Files documents offer a rare view into where some of it went, and the banks that helped send it on its path.

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The Conversation

Why do bankers behave so badly? They make too much money to ask questions

Over the past 16 months journalists have been scouring through more than 2,000 Suspicious Activity Reports originally sent by banks to the United States Treasury, before being leaked to Buzzfeed and then passed along to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists.

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Courthouse News Service

“The Government Is In on It”: An Insider’s Account of the Reza Zarrab Conspiracy

A Turk who hauled massive amounts of gold in a record-breaking sanctions-busting scheme remembers his first conversation about it vividly, some 12 years on.

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BBC

Israeli settlers’ Chelsea boss backer

An investigation by BBC News Arabic has found that Russian oligarch, Roman Abramovich, controls companies that have donated $100m to an Israeli settler organisation.

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Indian Express

FinCEN Files: Before bankruptcy and probe, Bhushan Steel hit US radar for flows from Latvia, Dubai

These transactions, totalling $4.39 million, figure in several Suspicious Activity Reports (SARs) sent between 2012 and 2015 to the US regulatory agency that enforces money laundering laws, the records show.

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ABC Australia

‘Wow, that’s a lot of money, congratulations’: The secret life of a money launderer

It’s difficult, with certainty, to pinpoint exactly when Jack’s career as a money launderer began, but around December 2012 stands out.

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NBC News

French prosecutors investigate Tokyo Olympics bid for possible bribery

The Tokyo Olympics, postponed to next summer because of the Covid-19 pandemic, are facing renewed scrutiny over allegations that the city’s bid to host the games was secured by millions of dollars in bribes laundered through the international banking system. A team of more than a dozen French prosecutors and police investigators is investigating allegations of corruption associated with the Tokyo Olympics bid, according to a top French prosecutor with oversight of the investigation. The inquiry grew out of a five-year investigation into Russian bribes that allowed athletes to compete despite positive doping tests, which resulted in multiple convictions by a French court last week.

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Editor’s Note:

Greater exposure of money moves around the world can also help law enforcement broaden investigations. Here NBC reports, after teaming up with Radio France and Asahi Shimbun, that more than $2 million went from the Tokyo Organizing Committee to the friend of a figure recently convicted in a scheme around doping. – Christopher Brennan, Editor

Vanguard Nigeria

Why we’re concerned about FG preventing looting, losing cases abroad — CISLAC

The Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre, CISLAC, Wednesday, expressed concern about Federal Government preventing looting of public funds and losing cases abroad.

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Buzzfeed News

How Deutsche Let Dirty Clients Run Rampant

When Robert Meltzer, who runs gyms for children in Los Angeles, found that more than $60,000 in payroll taxes — half a year’s worth — had gone missing in 2013, it was too late.

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The Nation (Pakistan)

While FATF sleeps

The world was yet again left aghast by the scale of global money laundering when the recent FinCEN leaks were brought to public attention. The litany of files, assiduously studied and revealed by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), covers an 18-year period worth of suspicious transactions worth a colossal $2 trillion. Even then, files that comprise the FinCEN leaks are thought to amount to a mere 0.02 percent of total reports filed by banks with FinCEN during that period.

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BBC

One of the world’s ‘dodgiest addresses’, in leafy Hertfordshire

Leaked banking documents have given a glimpse into international money-laundering. They show that it happens in some unlikely places.

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Times of Malta

FinCEN files: How a sanctions trail led from Syria to Malta

A Maltese company found itself on the US government’s radar over transactions with an energy company later sanctioned for supporting the Assad regime in Syria, leaked documents show.

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amaBhungane Centre for Investigative Journalism

FinCEN Files: Planes, boats and tax havens

On April 24 2015, the New York branch of Barclays bank filed a report to the US Treasury describing suspicious transactions in the accounts of one of its clients. The accounts in question, in Dubai and Cyprus, were held in the name of Paramount Logistics Corp (PLC), part of the private defence and aerospace group Paramount, controlled by controversial SA-born arms trader Ivor Ichikowitz.

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Editor’s Note:

One feature of having so many outlets as partners is that they can explore the more local angles when the files touch on their home countries. Here South Africa-based amaBhungane reports on Barclays’ suspicions of arms trader Ivor Ichikowitz. – Christopher Brennan, Editor

Global Witness

How Anonymous Companies Are Used to Launder Money in US Real Estate

Alongside the world’s worst COVID-19 death rates, the United States is facing an impending economic recession following the first wave of the pandemic. But, while millions of Americans struggle to stay afloat amid record job losses, there is a sector that seems strangely unaffected by the post-pandemic economic fallout: Real estate purchases. Alarmingly, in the U.S., there are few regulations and checks of who is purchasing homes. As a result, housing remains a key vehicle for criminals looking to stash cash, launder money, and buy up homes in a tight market.

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International Consortium of Investigative Journalists

Unchecked By Global Banks, Dirty Cash Destroys Dreams and Lives

From Ukraine to the United States, from Tunisia to Turkmenistan, a global ICIJ investigation details the punishing human cost of laundered trillions.

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Premium Times Nigeria

#Fincen Files – America Places Atiku, Wives, Under International Banking Surveillance

It was the link with Atiku that triggered suspicious activity alert through HBNLY’s transaction system

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OCCRP

European Regulators Failed to Spot Suspicious Money Flooding Through Latvia’s Banks

European regulators gave the green light for international banks to handle billions of dollars that flowed from the former Soviet Union through Latvia’s banking sector, even as thousands of these transactions were being red-flagged to the U.S. Treasury, leaked bank records show.

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Financial Times ($)

The rise of the foreign funds that distort western politics

Allegations this week that the husband of a big UK Conservative party donor was secretly funded by an oligarch with close ties to Vladimir Putin are the latest example of covert Russian money potentially interfering in European democracies. Other recent examples include alleged Russian attempts to funnel money to rightwing Italian, German and Dutch politicians, as well as Swedish news sites.

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