Banks have allowed some $2 trillion (roughly €1.69 trillion) of dirty money to travel the planet, a new investigation by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) found.
The investigation, known as the FinCEN files, found that banks are a key part of the machine for money laundering from fraud and organised crime.
“Some banks report suspicious transactions far too late, after initially overlooking important money laundering signals,” reports Le Soir, which is part of the ICIJ.
“Sometimes banks use simple Google searches to try to identify the person at the origin of a multi-million dollar transaction,” Le Soir writes. “In other cases, they only start to report suspicious transactions after one of their clients has been mentioned in a critical newspaper article.”
“Belgian banks are not innocent either. Our country appears repeatedly in the FinCEN Files,” the daily adds. “De Tijd, Knack and Le Soir have done the maths: 365 of the 2,100 SAR (suspicious activity reports) contain the word ‘Belgium’ at least once.”
The country’s four largest banks – ING, KBC, Belfius and BNP Paribas Fortis – appear in the files “with varying degrees of frequency,” Le Soir writes.
Suspicious transfers in Belgium ranged from a few hundred to several million dollars, according to the newspaper.
“Banks do what they’re required to, reporting suspect transactions,” Raymond Franken, Director of Communications for the European Banking Federation, tweeted on Sunday.
“To fight financial crime, we need to cooperate, harmonise, empower, and be smarter,” Franken added.
The Consortium’s investigation was launched 16 months ago. It includes more than 2,100 documents analysed and enriched by more than 400 journalists from 88 countries.
The Brussels Times