A powerful British lawmaker is demanding answers from the UK government about “deeply troubling” findings in the FinCEN Files, a global investigation based on a huge trove of documents BuzzFeed News shared with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists.
The investigation revealed how the giants of Western banking move trillions of dollars in suspicious transactions, enriching themselves and their shareholders while facilitating the actions of terrorists, kleptocrats, and drug kingpins. The documents have spotlighted failings inside a number of Britain’s largest banks, including HSBC, Standard Chartered, and Barclays.
“Some of the information coming from the release of the FinCEN papers is deeply troubling,” Mel Stride, the conservative chair of Parliament’s Treasury Committee, said in a statement released Wednesday.
He said he had sent a series of formal questions to Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s administration asking whether the government is doing enough to stop money laundering and expressed particular concern about HM Revenue and Customs, the British government’s tax collection agency, and Financial Conduct Authority, its financial crime watchdog. “The Treasury Committee wants to know whether Ministers, HMRC and the FCA are on top of this,” he wrote.
Stride demanded to know whether HMRC is “an effective money laundering supervisor.” He also asked whether UK law enforcement agencies are “following up on the information in the FinCEN papers,” and whether the FCA will “take enforcement action.”
At the heart of the FinCEN Files are more than 2,000 “suspicious activity reports,” which banks are required to file to the US Treasury when they spot transactions that bear the hallmarks of money laundering or other financial misconduct. While SARs are not by themselves evidence of a crime, they can support investigations and intelligence gathering.
British companies were named in the suspicious activity reports more than 3,000 times — more than any other country. And a US Treasury report in the FinCEN Files described the UK as a “higher-risk jurisdiction,” comparing it to notorious financial centers “such as Cyprus.” Stride demanded to know whether the government considered this “higher-risk jurisdiction” status “a cause for concern.”
In a letter to the FCA, Stride asked what action was being taken by the UK’s financial regulator following the findings. He also asked for clarity on what more needs to be done to “further secure the financial system from Economic Crime, given the information in the FinCen files.”
In another letter, this time to the UK’s Home Office, Stride asked if UK law enforcement was “following up” on the information from the FinCEN Files to see if “more could be done to combat economic crime.” UK law also requires banks to file suspicious activity reports to the National Crime Agency, and he asked about the implementation of an improved system to help UK law enforcement better deal with SARs.
“With various roles to play in combatting economic crime,” Stride said in his statement, “it’s vital that the appropriate parts of the system are ready to act, if required.”