The World Is Corrupt and Spun by Dirty Money
"The FinCen Files" - another depressing story that illustrates the corrupt world we live in and small Bulgaria which is a fraction of it.
In short: the files in question are from the information box of the US Treasury Department's Anti-Fraud Network. Their path passes through the US media Buzzfeed, which transmits them to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ).
It goes about an array of over 2,000 reports of suspicious financial transactions and the role of leading European and global banks that have served oligarchs, criminals and terrorists, despite the danger of being launched criminal proceedings against.
The total value of the transactions from the available information is $ 2 trillion, but the leaked documents represent
negligible part of all signals,
that enter the specialized unit of the US Treasury Department.
Let’s clarify that these are signals that the banks themselves have sent to FinCEN. And it is only about operations in US dollars, which makes the scale of potential wrong-doings much larger.
The reputation of the banks is severely damaged, because the logical question is why, after noticing irregularities, they closed their eyes and did not block the suspicious money transfers.
New revelations from the files are expected in the coming months and the combination of this scandal and working in the face of a global economic crisis poses new challenges for the banks
So far Bulgaria's "contribution" is modest
Our country is present in the investigation of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists with transactions marked as suspicious, worth over 62 million dollars for the period 2000-2017. The leaked documents contain the names of three Bulgarian banks - Investbank, Piraeus Bank Bulgaria (part of Eurobank Bulgaria since November 2019) and Encouragement Bank (in April 2008 it was renamed the Bulgarian Development Bank).
The other Bulgarian trace is left by the notorious "crypto queen" - Ruzha Ignatova. She has been missing since 2017 and has been the subject of criminal investigations since 2018. In the USA, she and her brother are accused of executing a multibillion-dollar pyramid scheme to sell the rogue crypto currency OneCoin. The Bulgarian Prosecutor's Office is also committed to the case, but its actions are still unclear.
Bulgaria is mentioned in more than 90 reports and the Bivol website, which is part of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, promises more names to emerge in the coming days and weeks some of them close to the current government. For now, the Bulgarian institutions are distancing themselves from the topic, but given the heated political situation in the country, they may end up getting involved in an explosive cocktail.
Money laundering problems
are long-standing in BG.
A few months ago, the European Council once again issued a recommendation to Bulgaria for an effective investigation into money laundering. This is also part of our commitments to join the euro area, along with informal criteria such as the reform of the judiciary and the fight against organized crime.
In the last few years, there have been several examples resembling the FinCen file story in our country. The most recent is from June this year, when the prosecutor's office brought out the name of one of the leading foreign-owned banks operating in Bulgaria - UniCredit Bulbank, in the saga around gambling boss Vasil Bozhkov. The elite emigrant has published bank statements from his account on social networks twice. They show that for a few years Bozhkov has withdrawn BGN 67 million from his account. The state prosecution claimed that the bank in question "did not notify "Financial Intelligence" when making payments in excess of BGN 30,000, according to the Anti-Money Laundering Measures Act." However, the credit institution announced that they had always cooperated with the authorities, providing all required documents, references and financial statements.
This has practically shown that the problem in our country comes not from the banks but rather from the efficiency of the institutions in the investigation of money laundering.
Another obvious problem is that Europe often turns its attention away when it comes to Bulgaria and in some cases the EU is an outright disgrace. For example, in 2019, the European Commission's report stated that potential financial crimes are not properly investigated.
"Two-thirds of the suspicious transactions reported by financial institutions to the Financial Intelligence Directorate involve local political figures, but the necessary judicial action is not taken in these cases," Brussels explained at the time which was logically interpreted as a sound thrashing against the work of the Bulgarian services.
Subsequently, however, our authorities entered into a dialogue with the European Commission and it corrected its report which sounded far more optimistic. In the amended text, the expression "2/3" was replaced by "a certain number", which was followed by the finding: "this confirms the progress of the Bulgarian institutions in the fight against money laundering".
The sad conclusion from the "FinCEN" scandal
is that the money doesn't smell - whether it comes from stock trading on Wall Street or as a money transfer from a small local bank.
After the Paradise Papers of 2017 and the Panama Papers of 2016, FinCEN is yet another data leak which shows us that the world is simply corrupt and money rules it no matter how it has been acquired and whether it’s been used for drug trafficking or terrorism.