Dirty Money Dominates
September 22, 2020
The Good News
- 4 ways that young people are thriving despite the trauma of 2020 (Mashable). Celebrating all of our Daily Pnutters, both young…
- … and old: Woman, 117, marks becoming Japan’s oldest ever person with cola and boardgames (Guardian)
“It is well enough that people of the nation do not understand our banking and monetary system, for if they did, I believe there would be a revolution before tomorrow morning.” ― Henry Ford
“I sincerely believe that banking establishments are more dangerous than standing armies, and that the principle of spending money to be paid by posterity, under the name of funding, is but swindling futurity on a large scale.” ― Thomas Jefferson
Documents Reveal That Dirty Money Dominates
(Michael Nagle via Getty Images)
On Monday, the world got its first glimpse into more than 2,000 government-sensitive banking documents that detail the movement of $2 trillion in dirty money between international crime organizations and some of the world’s largest banks. The report — compiled by Buzzfeed News and the International Consortium for Investigative Journalists — reveals that Western banking giants like JP Morgan Chase, Deutsche Bank, and Bank of New York Mellon all facilitate and profit from the criminal enterprises of terrorists, kleptocrats, and drug kingpins.
Perhaps most surprising of all: an obscure US government agency, the Financial Criminal Enforcement Network (FinCEN), has long known about these suspicious dealings and done nothing. For that reason, the document leak has been dubbed the “FinCEN Files.” Until Monday, only a few of the agency’s internal suspicious activity reports had ever been publicly released. Now, journalists are pouring through thousands of them.
Suspicious activity reports, or SARs, are filed to FinCEN when a bank suspects that dirty money is being used in large transactions. As long as they report the activity to FinCEN, they pass off their culpability to the American government. For years, this agency has known that our most prominent financial institutions knowingly accept money earned from deadly drug wars, the embezzlement of developing countries, and fraudulent Ponzi schemes. Yet, banks like JP Morgan Chase remain titans of the industry, inextricably linking the legitimate fortunes of Western society to the laundered money of wealthy criminals across the world.
The FinCEN Files are peppered with jaw-dropping revelations surrounding the ubiquitous presence of illicit money in Western banking. Standard Chartered helped move funds for a company with ties to the Taliban. JP Morgan and Bank of New York Mellon facilitated a transaction of more than $150 million for companies with ties to the North Korean regime. President Trump is even tangentially involved, as a 2013 SAR from JP Morgan reports on suspicious banking activity from Paul Manafort, Trump’s 2016 campaign manager.
Surely more will come from this cache of more than 2,000 top-secret documents, as reporting on the FinCEN Files just became public. However, one salient truth is discernible from this initial report. Our modern economy is upheld by a lot more dirty money than massive banks would like us knowing. To make matters worse, agents in the US Treasury have known this fact for a long time, and aren’t willing to do much to stop it.
Additional FinCEN Reads
- FinCEN Files Explainer: How BuzzFeed News And ICIJ Did It (Buzzfeed News)
- Secret documents show North Korea laundering money through U.S. banks (NBC)
- Leak reveals $2tn of possibly corrupt US financial activity (Guardian)
- Sanctioned Putin associate ‘laundered millions’ through Barclays (BBC)
- Deutsche Bank Execs Missed Money Laundering Red Flags (Buzzfeed News)
Who Stole From Who?
- In June, a Congolese man walked into a Parisian art museum and tried to walk out with a 19th-century wooden funerary post that he claimed belonged to him. Well, not him specifically, but his people. Over the course of the summer, Mwazulu Diyabanza attempted to steal African artifacts back from three separate French art museums, claiming that such exhibits were made possible through violent colonialism.
- Now, Diyabanza is set to go to court on charges of attempted theft. But what started as a trial based on crimes committed in the Quai Branly Museum may turn into a greater referendum on the criminality of museums themselves, where Diyabanza argues he is charged money to lay his eyes on his own heritage.
- France currently stores around 9,000 objects with sub-Saharan African heritage in its national museums, a number that Diyabanza and other Pan-African activists find unsettling. In 2017, French President Emmanuel Macron pledged to return any stolen African heritage, but only one object has been returned to date.
- “The fact that I had to pay my own money to see what had been taken by force, this heritage that belonged back home where I come from — that’s when the decision was made to take action,” said Mr. Diyabanza in defense of his actions. He continued by calling the Quai Branly “a museum that contains stolen objects.” He added, “There is no ban on an owner taking back his property the moment he comes across it.” (NYT, $)
Uruguayan COVID Utopia
- For Agustina Valls and other real estate agents in Uruguay, the phone just won’t stop ringing. As the rest of the Latin world struggles to contain the spread of COVID-19, her country has emerged as a rare South American safe haven. And because of that, business is booming.
- Thousands of affluent South Americans are flooding into Uruguay, desperate to flee their homes in search of a country where schools, restaurants, and sports clubs have fully reopened thanks to large testing and contact tracing programs. While neighboring countries like Brazil and Argentina report some of the world’s highest caseloads, Uruguay has seen less than 2,000 cases and COVID-19 deaths remain in the double digits since the pandemic began.
- This recent wealthy migration only highlights what some have known for a long time: Uruguay is an undeniable bright spot on a continent that has bungled its pandemic response. It’s key ingredient? Government official Jaime Miller credits societal trust in institutions.
- “Why we’re so successful against the pandemic? Because the government called in the scientists and respected their advice,” Miller said. “People saw that and in turn respected the government’s recommendations to wear masks and socially distance without it ever having to be mandated.” (Guardian)
Additional World News
- China air force video appears to show simulated attack on U.S. air base on Guam (Reuters)
- WeChat: Judge blocks US attempts to ban downloads of Chinese app (BBC). Trump’s WeChat concerns get left on read.
- Australian journalist says he fled China after authorities threatened to detain his teenage daughter (Yahoo News)
- Facebook Says it Will Stop Operating in Europe If Regulators Don’t Back Down (Vice). Zuckerberg attempts to deface the EU.
- But perhaps the feeling is mutual: Proposal would give EU power to boot tech giants out of European market (Ars Technica)
- Briton, Aussie killed in Solomon Islands by WWII bomb blast (ABC News)
- How the Unpredictable Coronavirus Pandemic Took a Terrible Toll (NYT, $)
- An Asian Pandemic Success Story (Foreign Affairs)
- How the rise in remote work during Covid-19 could transform developing countries (Vox)
- CDC reverses itself and says guidelines it posted on coronavirus airborne transmission were wrong (WaPo)
- How Many Lawmakers Got The Coronavirus Or Self-Quarantined? (NPR)
- Giving money back to the people. For years, big banks have earned enormous profits by charging outrageous fees while paying near-zero rates. One bank is looking to change that.
- Axos Bank offers pro-consumer accounts with high interest earnings and little to no fees. Take the Rewards Checking account, for example. You get up 1.25% Annual Percentage Yield (APY) – higher than most accounts on the market. Zero fees.
- Unlimited ATM fee reimbursements in the U.S. Plus, a mobile banking app that will knock your socks off. Isn’t it time to start putting money back into your own pockets? If you agree, sign up for a Rewards Checking account here.
It All Sits With Mitt
- In the last decade, Utah Senator Mitt Romeny has evolved from the ultimate Republican insider (their nominee for the presidency) to a relative loner within his own party. Nowhere was his isolation within the GOP more evident than last winter, when he served as the sole Republican senator to vote to impeach President Donald Trump.
- Now, as the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg turns all eyes toward a potential Supreme Court confirmation in the Senate, Romney’s ideological schism with his own party will again take center stage. With a slim 53-47 conservative majority and two Republican senators already coming out in opposition of a pre-election confirmation, a lot of attention will be paid to the decision-making process of one of Washington’s more nuanced political figures.
- Romney has made a concerted effort to distance himself from Trump on a number of social issues. He marched in Black Lives Matter protests this summer and penned an op-ed where he promised to push back on the president when necessary. However, he has also demonstrated a willingness to support Trump appointees when they align with his conservative interpretation of the Constitution.
- For all the speculation regarding which path Romney will choose, he’s done little to reveal his plans for the coming weeks. It’s worth noting that Romney isn’t due for reelection until 2024, giving him some extra wiggle room to break from convention and yet again stand up against a party that hardly reflects the one he campaigned for in 2012. (Politico)
Additional USA News
- The Senate’s Rural Skew Makes It Very Hard For Democrats To Win The Supreme Court (FiveThirtyEight)
- Which is which for Mitch? For Mitch McConnell, Keeping His Senate Majority Matters More Than the Supreme Court (New Yorker)
- The price for Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s seat can’t be democracy itself (Vox)
- Inspecting incels: A Portrait of the Breakdown of Hope and Meaning in America (Jacobin)
- Mueller Deputy Andrew Weissmann on Why the Probe Failed (Atlantic, $)
- Jeff Zucker Helped Create Donald Trump. That Show May Be Ending. (NYT, $). There’s still reality in reality TV.
- Biden Enters Campaign’s Final Stretch With Cash Advantage Over Trump (NPR)
- In ‘Power Grab,’ Health Secretary Azar Asserts Authority Over F.D.A. (NYT, $)
This Clock Tells You How Much Time Is Left
(Rob Kim via Getty Images)
- If you’re a Daily Pnutter living in downtown New York, you may have seen it before. It’s 62 feet wide, 15 digits long, and for the last 20 years, the giant Metronome clock has told passerbys the current time down to the millisecond. Now — instead of telling the time — it tells how much time is left.
- That’s right. As of Saturday, the massive clock serves as an estimated countdown until the devastating effects of climate change become irreversible. The art exhibit is the brain-child of two artists, Gan Golan and Andrew Boyd, who have given New Yorkers and the world a little more than seven years to take substantive action on climate change. When the clock’s new purpose was revealed on Saturday, it came with the message “The Earth Has A Deadline.”
- The Climate Clock — as activists are now calling it — bases its countdown on calculations from the Mercator Research Institute on Global Commons and Climate Change. “This is arguably the most important number in the world,” Boyd said. “And a monument is often how a society shows what’s important, what it elevates, what is at center stage.”
- Just before the countdown began, Golan said the clock “is our way to shout that number from the rooftops. The world is literally counting on us.” (NYT)
- Plastic asteroids: The Elusive Peril of Space Junk (New Yorker)
- Egypt tomb: Sarcophagi buried for 2,500 years unearthed in Saqqara (BBC)
- New emoji approved to help express the anguish of 2020 (The Verge). Our phones are helping us face the moment, literally.
- Anne Helen Petersen on Burnout and Millennials’ Childhood (Atlantic, $)
- Bruce Springsteen: Ghosts, Guitars, and the E Street Shuffle (Rolling Stone)
- Dungeons and drag-ons: This game of Dungeons & Dragons has been going on for 38 years (CNN)
- National Book Awards Names 2020 Nominees (NYT, $)
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