How BuzzFeed Information And ICIJ Did It

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More than a year ago, BuzzFeed News received government secret documents. The large sum of money was collected at the request of law enforcement agencies and law enforcement committees investigating the 2016 Presidential and other presidential elections. The documents included a public bank report on civilians and government officials around the world – as well as suspected terrorists and terrorist organizations.

Among the items was more than 2,100 suspicious reports, or SARs, provided by banks and other financial institutions to the U.S. Treasury Department of Financial Crimes Enforcing Network, or FinCEN, when they see incidents of money laundering or other illegal activities. Reports like these can help detect and gather experts – but in themselves they are not evidence of a crime.

These records are so secure that they should not be made available to the public. You will not be able to access them through the Freedom of Information application and you will not be able to move them to court. Banks should not accept SAR – even from other banks. Prior to this, very few SARs were known to be undetectable. BuzzFeed News has thousands.

2,100+ Reports

22,000+ Pages

10,000+ Students

170+ countries and regions

Especially from the beginning of 2011 to 2017, despite describing some of the events that took place in early 1999, these documents provide an overview of the unprecedented cost of globalization. To monitor and increase the numbers, BuzzFeed News partnered with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists and more than 100 media organizations from 88 countries.

What followed was a year-long data analysis that required thousands of hours of data entry, the development of digital tools, a learning machine, and a validation program.

But all of this came as a result of suspicious reports.

SAR Anatomy – How We Released Them

All SARs have two parts: table groups and subjects.

Notification tables state the amount of money you suspect and the date of the transaction, as well as the details of the people and organizations involved – such as their addresses, bank accounts, government ID numbers, and much more.

These tables can extend to multiple pages, depending on the complexity of the report. BuzzFeed News developed software programs to unleash all of this and put it in a single media repository for research and analysis.

Descriptive section and a written account of what prompted the bank to submit the report.

Some cases are empty bones, while others are deep-seated accounts involving personal events, overtime parties, and alleged misappropriation of funds. In FinCEN files, these informative articles alone reached over 8,000 pages – or about 3 million words.

We tried to write computer programs to obtain this important information, but we quickly realized that it was not possible.

So when choosing another, we did the old-fashioned: We read each last page.

At the Beginning

of the Nations






War and Peace



Pride and Prejudice



Powerful Broker



Without Is




Number of words in

FinCEN Files SAR articles.

Source: Blotto Design (Moby-Dick, At the Origin of Races, Pride and Prejudice, Ulysses); Project Gutenberg (Middlemarch, War and Peace – English translation by Louise and Aylmer Maude); Internet Archive (Without Jest); New York Review of Books (The Power Broker). Word reading is almost universal and varies according to its type. Photos: BuzzFeed Stories; Birds; Amazon; Barnes & Noble; Wikimedia

BuzzFeed Stories; Birds; Amazon; Barnes & Noble; Wikimedia

Source: Blotto Design (Moby-Dick, At the Origin of Races, Pride and Prejudice, Ulysses); Project Gutenberg (Middlemarch, War and Peace – English translation by Louise and Aylmer Maude); Internet Archive (Without Jest); New York Review of Books (The Power Broker). Word reading is almost universal and varies according to its type.

With the help of the ICIJ-linked platform, BuzzFeed News and its affiliates shared the work among more than 80 journalists. In each document, the journalists covered all of the above. Subsequently, the ICIJ offered any “discount” for a number of legitimate problems. It was a huge effort, but it allowed us to put more than 200,000 plans into SARs.

This effort gave journalists more layered, more immovable opportunities than FinCEN provides researchers.

In addition to written SARs, BuzzFeed News received hundreds of spreadsheets sent to banks by FinCEN. Although files often do not contain reports, they do record more than 100,000 events.

But each bank has a different file system. As a result, the ICIJ attempted to classify national names and addresses to be useful to our colleagues.

Over $ 2 Trillion – Yes, It’s “T”

All in all, the reports showed more than $ 2 trillion in sales. This is how it went wrong.

Banks: FinCEN files contain reports provided by approximately 90 banks and other financial institutions. This collection of documents does not represent the offerings of banks. Within this phase, the largest number of SARs come from Deutsche Bank.

Here are the top 10 banks represented by FinCEN Files, plus the total value of the doubts:

Another report, released in August 2014 by JPMorgan Chase, shows more than $ 335 billion in questionable items, relating to the transfer of more than 100,000 “shipped, received or exchanged” over a decade in addition to MKS, a Swiss-based company that sells precious metals. .

“We cannot confirm your SAR report from the last 10 years without our knowledge,” an MKS spokesman told BuzzFeed News and ICIJ. “We see, however, that $ 335 billion in cloud sales over the past twelve years paints a false and misleading picture of the growth of our precious metals.”

MKS is “proud of the fact that we have a sustainable development program,” says the prophet, “and our long history of uninterrupted stability in the global financial markets.”

In all, 130 reports put $ 1 billion in minimum on Treasure; these big dollar reports contain more than 90% of all “doubts” that have been written.

When banks first encounter suspicions, they are required to report within 30 days. But this does not mean that all information is timely: SARs usually refer to very old events, even some that occurred more than a decade ago. This happens frequently when banks receive new information about past transactions or customers, such as the ICIJ published Panama papers; but sometimes, the reason is not clear.

Doubts: These documents provide information to more than 10,000 individuals and organizations located in 170 countries and territories. They also cover almost every country in the US.

More than 250 SARs refer to people with addresses in the US, as well as more than 120 people with addresses in Russia. The UK, China, Germany, the United Arab Emirates, Canada, and Ukraine were also common destinations for individuals, each found in at least 20 reports.

At least 25 of those named as academics have appeared on Forbes ’billionaire list in 2018, 2019, or 2020, according to an ICIJ and BuzzFeed News analysis.

SARs, however, have a better chance of identifying organizations than individuals. The areas of these institutions are considered to be rich and prosperous. More than 400 companies have addresses on the British Virgin Islands, and more than 300 include Hong Kong – two of the world’s most famous resorts.

More than one-fifth of SAR in FinCEN files have a title whose “address” does not matter: no street number, city, state, or country. In some cases, the addresses are blank and the customers in the companies that live in the bank.

Some organizations have been mentioned several times in FinCEN files. Mayzus Financial Services, an online payment service company that has sent customers involved in spending rings, writes, and appears to be the head of SAR 36. Second is Kaloti Jewelery International, a valuable Dubai-based company ranked as the head in three SAR 34 and eight different banks. Here are the five most frequently mentioned topics:

In response to a request for comment, a representative of Mayzus Financial Services said the company strictly adhered to the rules and “assisted in the arrest of online and offline fraudsters, money launderers, money launderers, money launderers, and illegal holders” to do. “

A lawyer in Kaloti said the amount of SARs “was not real” on his business. “Carrots strongly deny any inaccuracies, even if what they say comes from today or a decade ago,” the company told ICIJ and BuzzFeed News.

Trafigura declined to comment. Veles International and Bufalo Management did not respond to BuzzFeed News queries.

What the Government Does Not Know

Last year, banks and other financial institutions filed more than 2 million SARs. Government investigators fighting fraudulent told BuzzFeed News that the high number of SARs makes it difficult to keep track of them all.

“I don’t think we have enough money in the state to get through all this,” said Richard Elias, a former state attorney in the Eastern District of California.

While the amount of SAR storage is growing every year, employees at FinCEN have reduced more than 10% in the last 10 years, according to Treasury reports. (In addition to full-time employees, FinCEN also uses contractors to evaluate SARs.) In 2017, FinCEN’s chief executive officer testified before Congress that the agency faced difficulties in recruiting, among other things, for long delays in obtaining safety clearance.

FinCEN did not respond to a request from BuzzFeed News for comment on its findings. However, it issued a statement saying “illegal disclosure of SARs is a crime,” and announced that it would report the matter to the Department of Justice and to the office of the Inspector General of the Treasure department.

FinCEN provides its SAR database to be available to over 450 regulators and regulators nationwide, with more than 13,000 users requesting machines several million times a year.

FinCEN does not require banks to provide pages that report any activity, although some do so voluntarily. Yet that is exactly what researchers say is the most important. “There is nothing more valuable than being able to monitor a number of wire transfers or a number of backups or a few discounts,” said Peter Djinis, a former FinCEN researcher who helped develop the original SAR system. All of this is very helpful. ”

Once banks have merged with system files, auditors should review each report individually or request specific documentation.

Young people created by BuzzFeed News and ICIJ also understand much better than they do in their own right, and have already helped our global network of journalists to address the failures of governments and banks to address the growing global financial scandal. ●

Emilia Díaz-Struck and Agustin Armendariz of ICIJ reported.

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