Trade group sounds alarm on cost of financial crimes

Financial crime's impact felt beyond just financial sector, causing grave threats to society as whole, says trade group head

Aysu Bicer  | 21.09.2020 - Update : 21.09.2020
Trade group sounds alarm on cost of financial crimes


Evidence of possible financial wrongdoing newly made public stresses the need to pursue intelligence-led changes for financial crime risk management, according to the head of the Institute of International Finance (IIF), a global trade group of financial institutions.

The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) said on its website Sunday that Buzzfeed News shared more than 2,100 suspicious activity reports (SAR) filed by global banks to the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN), the US Treasury Department’s intelligence unit.

"I hope these findings spur urgent action from policymakers to enact needed reforms,” said Tim Adams, the IFF president and CEO, late Sunday in a written statement.

"As noted in the reports, the impacts of financial crime are felt beyond just the financial sector – it poses grave threats to society as a whole."

He added that suspicious activity reports provide a valuable source of intelligence.

However, he noted, leveraging the combined powers of the public and private sector is the only way to curtail illicit flows and bring those responsible for these crimes to justice.

"There is a balance to be struck between managing financial crime risk and ensuring access to the financial system for legitimate customers," he said.

He added that the suspicious activity reports regime is one part of maintaining that balance and should be coupled with operational and tactical intelligence sharing.

System failure

FinCEN Files, according to the ICIJ report, is a cross-border investigation based on secret documents that expose how banks and regulators have failed the public by allowing dirty money to flow unchecked around the globe.

The investigation found that from 1990 to 2017, banks moved more than $2 trillion in payments they believed to be suspicious, it said.

The report claims that some of the biggest banks in the leaked files, including JPMorgan Chase, HSBC, and Barclays Bank, continued to wave through suspect payments, "including those they said bore hallmarks of fraud, despite promises to government authorities to improve money laundering controls."

The journalists consortium, BuzzFeed News, and 108 other media partners in 88 countries spent 16 months organizing and analyzing the leaked documents.

"The free flow of illicit money causes incalculable harm," the report stressed, adding it exacerbates global inequality, enables tax evasion, and undermines democracies.

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