Tuesday, September 29, 2020
The exposure of the FinCEN files has brought attention to over 200.000 suspicious financial transactions between 1999 and 2017, conducted in 180 different countries. The documents were leaked from the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network and globally publicised on 20 September 2020. They highlight that both the banks and the US government were aware of the illicit activity but did not stop it.

Journalists from 18 African countries contributed to this disclosure and were supported by Free Press Unlimited partner CENOZO, who collaborated with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ). CENOZO is an innovative investigative journalism project in West-Africa, which aims to financially support and coordinate cross-border investigations. Free Press Unlimited supported CENOZO in the FinCEN files project by providing roughly €25.000 in funding. This was allocated through €750 individual grants per article, covering translation costs, providing judicial services to ensure all articles were coherent with national law and the overall project coordination costs.

Collaboration between 400 journalists

CENOZO partnered with ICIJ and journalists from 88 countries to expose fraudulent financial behaviour. The ICIJ organised a global team of more than 400 journalists to investigate the money laundering. With 18 African journalists contributing to this project, it has the largest investigative journalistic contribution from Africa within a global project. The publicisation of the files has exposed many banks, such as Deutsche Bank, JP Morgan Chase, HSBC and ING Bank, as knowingly laundering money among other fraudulent financial activity.

Exposure of €110 million embezzlement in Niger

One of the articles posted exposes how 71.8 billion CFA (110 million euro’s) has been embezzled by the Nigerien Ministry of Defence. It was written by Moussa Askar and published in L’événement Niger, a digital and physical news platform supported by Free Press Unlimited. The article highlights how the formation of fictitious companies are used to extract money from the state. In this example, a fictious company, Halltown LLP, was established in 2011 as a supposed arms dealer with the Nigerien Ministry of Defence. Following this, Halltown LLP continuously overbilled the Ministry of Defence, and put the excess amounts in the pockets of ministers.

€520 million laundered in Tanzania

Landfall Universe, a company operating from Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, first became suspicious when it was noticed there are no online or offline traces of the company, which hints at money laundering purposes. In the span of three years, the company moved €520 million between bank accounts and has failed to pay any tax to the Tanzanian government. 

Read more about CENOZO’s part in the FinCEN files here.