A cache of thousands of reports that major banks filed with federal regulators shows that they helped suspected terrorists, drug dealers and corrupt foreign officials move trillions of dollars around the world, despite the banks’ concerns about the suspicious nature of the transactions.
The documents, known as suspicious activity reports, were obtained by BuzzFeed News and shared with a worldwide consortium of journalists. The more than 2,100 suspicious activity reports, filed by major U.S. and international banks, relate to more than $2 trillion of transactions from 1999 to 2017.
Banks are required to file the reports with the U.S. Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network about transactions that they believe could be part of a money laundering scheme, fraud or other illegal activity.
BuzzFeed obtained suspicious activity reports filed by the largest U.S. lenders — including JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup and Bank of America — and major international institutions like Deutsche Bank, HSBC and Standard Chartered. Many of those banks have been repeatedly penalized by United States and other authorities for their roles in money laundering.
Among BuzzFeed’s main findings were that Standard Chartered, which operates primarily in Asia, the Middle East and Africa, appears to have helped move funds on behalf of a Dubai-based company that reportedly had ties to the Taliban. JPMorgan, Bank of New York Mellon and other banks appear to have helped move more than $150 million for companies tied to the North Korean regime, according to a companion report by NBC News.
As of late 2013, officials at JPMorgan Chase had also submitted at least eight suspicious activity reports on banking activity connected to Paul Manafort, President Trump’s 2016 campaign chairman. JPMorgan also moved more than $1 billion for the alleged mastermind of a giant fraud involving a Malaysian sovereign wealth fund.
Patricia Wexler, a JPMorgan spokeswoman, said: “We have played a leadership role in anti-money-laundering reform that will modernize how the government and law enforcement combat money laundering, terrorism financing and other financial crimes.”
A spokesman for Standard Chartered, Chris Teo, said, “We take our responsibility to fight financial crime extremely seriously and have invested substantially in our compliance programs.”
A representative for Bank of New York Mellon and Standard Chartered did not immediately respond to a request for comment.