Big banks involved in money-laundering and financing of terror

Recently a number of big banks in Europe have come under scrutiny for carrying out suspected money-laundering transactions. Danske Bank, Denmark's largest bank, admitted recently that an internal investigation had uncovered a large number of suspicious accounts and transactions at its branch in Estonia. That branch had handled $235 billion for around 15,000 foreign clients between 2007 and 2015. It was admitted that the "vast majority" of the 6,200 customers it has investigated so far were "suspicious." Investigators are saying that Danske might only be the “tip of the iceberg”.

Typically, money-laundering transactions are carried out through banks of imperialist countries with a branch in a high risk third country. The US and other big powers create and arm terrorist groups, "opposition" or "freedom fighter" groups all over the world. This requires funds to be transferred secretly to such groups, without exposing which state is behind the financing. It is difficult to transfer large amounts of physical cash across countries; hence banks are invariably involved. The problem is that there are international “know your customer” (KYC) norms that banks are required to follow. These norms need to be violated when funds have to be transferred secretly. Such transaction are called money-laundering transactions. The country or territory or jurisdiction where the norms are violated are referred to as High Risk Third Countries (HRTC).

In November 2018, the Frankfurt headquarters of Deutsche Bank, the biggest bank in Germany, was searched in connection with suspected money-laundering through its British Virgin Islands branch. In 2017, Deutsche Bank has spent more than $18 billion paying fines and settling legal disputes relating to money-laundering since 2008. Earlier, HSBC had to pay $1.92 billion to settle money-laundering allegations with US regulators. Before that, ING Bank had to pay $900 million to Dutch regulators. More than $13 billion of illicit funds were transferred by such big banks to the Trasta Komercbanka in Latvia, and from there to various countries of the world. Because of the way the European Union works, once dirty money enters the banking system in one of its 28 member countries, it can be easily moved around from one country to another within the EU.

An EU commission has updated the list of HRTC in February 2019, which now has 23 countries. These include four US territories, namely Puerto Rico, Guam, American Samoa and the US Virgin Islands. It also includes Saudi Arabia. US has condemned the new list brought out by the European parliament for including American territories. EU officials noted that Saudi Arabia and its allies in the US had lobbied Brussels for Riyadh to be taken off the list. At a recent meeting, the ambassadors of other big powers including Britain, France and Germany expressed reservations regarding inclusion of new countries to the earlier list of HRTC.

Even though financial regulatory commissions in various countries are levying fines on big banks for money-laundering and black listing countries that facilitate money-laundering, financing of terrorists and various kinds of opposition groups goes on unabated. It is because imperialist powers need to finance such groups to advance their agenda of world domination.

Exposures of money laundering only take place when the contention between rival imperialist powers is high. Hefty fines on banks by financial regulators serve to create a false impression amongst the people that financial irregularities are being addressed. It serves to hide the fact that as long as the imperialist system exists, terrorism and other forms of interference in the internal affairs of countries will go on.

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Mar 16-31 2019    Political-Economy    Economy     War & Peace     2019   

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