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Welcome back!

FinCEN Files – our latest cross-border investigation – exposes how the world's biggest banks, tasked with stopping suspicious activity, actually profit hugely from it. Over the coming days and weeks, we will take you on a shocking worldwide tour of corruption and inequality, as we send each story directly to your inbox.

The very idea of money laundering and the despots, terrorists and drug lords who benefit from it, may not register as an immediate threat – especially in a year punctuated by a global health crisis. But the coronavirus pandemic, which continues to grip much of the world, shows just how important every dollar is to our revenue-starved governments. 

Today, we explain how our broken financial system lets anonymous companies go unchecked and how millions of dollars in public money gets looted – instead of helping fund hospitals or other public services.

At the heart of the FinCEN Files are 2,100 extremely secret documents, known as suspicious activity reports, that were obtained by BuzzFeed News and shared with us. These documents offer extraordinary insight into the secret world of international banking.

From these files, more than 400 reporters in 88 countries have taken threads of information – a name, a company – and researched, interviewed, and further sourced more than 17,000 additional documents to tell stories of notorious figures who have benefited from a system unable to protect us.

Global banks defy U.S. crackdowns by serving oligarchs, criminals and terrorists

Trillions in tainted dollars flow freely through major banks, swamping a broken enforcement system.

Unchecked by banks, dirty cash destroys dreams and lives

From Ukraine to the United States, from Tunisia to Turkmenistan, FinCEN Files details the punishing human cost of laundered trillions.

We reveal that banks kept moving illicit funds even after U.S. officials warned them they’d face criminal prosecutions if they didn’t stop doing business with mobsters, fraudsters, or corrupt regimes. Big global banks – JPMorgan, HSBC, Standard Chartered Bank, Deutsche Bank and Bank of New York Mellon – continued to wave through suspect payments despite promises to government authorities to do more to stop the flow of dirty money. Banks told us they take their responsibility to fight financial crime extremely seriously and have since taken efforts to clean up their act.

On the surface, this might seem like a victimless crime, but tell that to the Californian man who ended up dead after one of the investors he unwittingly told to support a Ponzi scheme had him killed. Or the Russian parents who wanted a used car to take their sick child to the hospital and instead lost $15,000.  Olympic athletes have been cheated of victories by crooked officials, and a family mourns the loss of their son to a fentanyl overdose – payments for which darted across the global financial system long before the drugs landed in his home. The stories we - and our partners - reveal are just the beginning.

Where to start? 

It wouldn’t be an ICIJ investigation without our partners. You can meet some of them in this short video from the investigative ‘party’ we all had in Germany (back when we could meet in person!) to kickstart our research.

I will be back in your inbox for the next four days. So stay tuned for more! And, please, if you think this investigation is worth reading about, forward it to your friends and share on social media with #FinCENFiles.

Until tomorrow!

Amy Wilson-Chapman

ICIJ’s community engagement editor
P.S. Make sure you tell your friends about our investigation! Tweet about it, or send them an email now! 

Global banks defy U.S. crackdowns by serving oligarchs, and criminals

Trillions in tainted dollars flow freely through major banks, swamping a broken enforcement system.

Unchecked by banks, dirty cash destroys dreams and lives

From Ukraine to the United States, from Tunisia to Turkmenistan, FinCEN Files details the punishing human cost of laundered trillions.

Explore the FinCEN Files data

Explore the confidential data at the heart of the FinCEN Files.

Explore: Confidential Clients

These are the people zipping money across the world thanks to the global banking system.

Watch: How banks move dirty money around the world

The FinCEN Files investigation reveals the role of global banks in industrial-scale money laundering.

Watch: How money is laundered via New York banks

We explain the role of U.S.-based correspondent banks in facilitating the global flow of dirty money.

From a jumble of secret reports, damning data on big banks and dirty money

How we turned a leak into usable information exposing the futility of anti-money laundering efforts.

Watch: Behind the scenes of FinCEN Files


More than 400 reporters from 88 countries came together to investigate. This is how it happened.

About the FinCEN Files investigation

A 16-month long cross-border investigation involving more than 400 reporters.

Suspicious activity reports, explained

Financial institution employees are the world’s first line of defense against money laundering.

READ MORE NEWS

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