Some of the world’s biggest banks reportedly let criminals and fraudsters move dirty money around the world, according to leaked banking documents seen by BBC Panorama.
More than 2,000 sensitive banking papers detailing more than two trillion US dollars’ worth of transactions were analysed after being leaked to BuzzFeed News and shared with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, which distributed them to 108 news organisations, BBC Panorama said.
They allegedly show banking officials allowed fraudsters to shuttle money between different accounts after being made aware the profits were from multimillion-pound scams or crimes.
The files are also reported to show how Russian oligarchs use banks to avoid sanctions and get their money into the West.
The programme uncovers secret reports that expose how banks have failed to tackle crime and how terrorists, money launderers and crime bosses are able to use the same banks as ordinary citizens. It also reveals the double life of the man who funded the Brexit Party.
Alex Cobham, chief executive at Tax Justice Network, said: “As will be revealed over the coming days, many of the world’s major financial institutions have comprehensively failed to meet their own responsibilities, in the name of turning a profit – however dirty.
“Swift and robust action is needed, including potential criminal charges, or banks will simply continue to treat the prospects of being caught and fined as a simple cost of business.”
The cache of files, known as FinCEN (from the US Financial Crimes Investigation Network), are mostly files banks sent to the US authorities between 2000 and 2017, raising concerns about suspicious activity in their clients’ accounts, Panorama said.
The programme called the documents “some of the international banking system’s most closely guarded secrets”.
Anti-corruption group Transparency International UK said the suspicious activity reports (SARs) “repeatedly cite weak money laundering defences in the UK financial sector as a major problem”.
It added: “The leak shows how UK banks continually fail to address suspicious activity and instead offered their services to those with money to hide.”
Panorama airs at 8pm CET on 21 September.