Pineapple Street Studios and BuzzFeed Annual accompany you this five-part alternation investigating how the best able banks in the apple facilitate the affliction of altruism — terrorism, animal trafficking, the biologic barter — all in apparent afterimage of the government.
In Adventure 1, BuzzFeed Annual assets admission to a accession of documents, ablution the better advertisement action in the newsroom’s history.
A five-part podcast analysis into how the best able banks in the apple facilitate the affliction of humanity.
Listen now on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts.
Azeen Ghorayshi So Jason, I accept a absolutely accessible aboriginal catechism for you. Um, can you explain what this adventure is?
Jason Leopold Well, what is this story? This is a adventure that’s absolutely been about three years in the making. And it relies heavily on abstracts that shows us that oligarchs, biologic kingpins, terrorists, and arresting admiral accept been affianced in what appears to be a years connected accomplishment to acquit money all above the globe.
Azeen Ghorayshi I know. You’re gonna charge added context.
Azeen Ghorayshi I’m Azeen Ghorayshi … I’m a anchorman and editor at BuzzFeed Annual … and this adventure that my accessory Jason Leopold and a accomplished agglomeration of others at BuzzFeed accept been alive on … they accumulate adage it ability be the better adventure of their lives. But it’s a little adamantine to describe. Here’s the project’s editor Ariel Kaminer.
Ariel Kaminer To me this is a adventure about uh, about how, hmm … what is this story?
Anthony Cormier It is the adventure of how the best able banks in the apple are accomplishing business with the affliction of humanity, allowance them move their money about the apple and authoritative a tidy accumulation for themselves and their shareholders.
Azeen Ghorayshi That’s BuzzFeed Annual anchorman Anthony Cormier.
Anthony Cormier This is a adventure based on government abstracts that accept never been appear before. It’s a adventure about bedraggled money. And how, with the advice of the big all-around banks, that bedraggled money gets clean.
Azeen Ghorayshi Here’s how it works.
Ariel Kaminer Bodies booty money that is really, absolutely bedraggled from the affliction kinds of for-profit affairs that abide from alarm costs to narco trafficking to accoutrements dealership to all kinds of actionable activity, animal trafficking. And they carry it into what we anticipate of as the accepted economy.
Azeen Ghorayshi So the money fabricated off of all that abominable activity? … It’s not off in the atramentous bazaar in a aback alleyway about … it’s coursing through the aforementioned banks you and I use. And allotment industries in every bend of the abridgement … in countries all over the world. And as Jason and Anthony concluded up seeing firsthand: the banks consistently acquaint the government that apprehensive money is abounding through them.
Ariel Kaminer That’s abominable enough, but the best abominable is that the United States government has all of the affirmation in its possession. They apperceive how rotten the arrangement is and they let it accumulate happening. Because, this, what we sometimes alarm the aphotic economy, these rivers of bedraggled money that are coursing through the U.S. economy, that aphotic abridgement is SO BIG that in a actual absolute sense, the aphotic abridgement IS the accepted economy.
Azeen Ghorayshi The aphotic abridgement … is the economy.
What Ariel is adage is that the cyberbanking arrangement that allows you to airing to the bend abundance and buy a bag of chips with your acclaim agenda is additionally beating with money from the affliction actors in the world.
That bedraggled money … baseborn money, money that has adjourned terrorists … it’s all pond calm in our cyberbanking system. Banks clue apprehensive money as it flows into their accounts … and then.. as it flows OUT afresh to armamentarium all kinds of bad action in the apple … and the banks accumulation from it.
And we apperceive from the government abstracts that BuzzFeed Annual has accustomed … that the government knows it’s there, too … they acquiesce the aphotic abridgement to curl … and no one is accomplishing what it would booty to stop it.
From Pineapple Street Studios and BuzzFeed News, this is Apprehensive Activity: Central the FinCEN Files.
Over 5 episodes, we’re action to breach bottomward and explain what this adventure is, let you associate into these government abstracts that cardinal in the thousands, analyze the massive implications of what it bureau to accept all this bedraggled money abounding through the apple economy, and booty you abaft the scenes with my colleagues at BuzzFeed Annual as they appear it.
This is Adventure 1. The Documents.
Azeen Ghorayshi We’re action to get into the specifics of how this all works in this adventure … but afore we do that, it’s annual alive a little bit added about the two primary reporters on this adventure – Anthony Cormier and Jason Leopold.
I’m gonna alpha with Jason. He’s been an analytic anchorman for 25 years. Afore he came to BuzzFeed News, he’d been at Vice News, Al-Jazeera, and the annual website Truthout. Consistently alive on breaking big, acutely impossible-to-get belief … ache at Guantanamo, on the Enron aspersion … one adventure on how the US Air Force acclimated religious actual to alternation officers.”
… and as a adolescent reporter, Jason admired the work.
Jason Leopold I adulation the rush. I adulation the blitz of breaking news, of breaking a story, of actuality first. It was actual abundant like cocaine to me. Which I additionally acclimated to love.
Azeen Ghorayshi Aboriginal in his career, Jason got that blitz from block sources. Hearing article afore anyone abroad did.
But that affectionate of advertisement can be risky. Sources can be wrong, as Jason abstruse the adamantine way aback a antecedent gave him ambiguous advice … and he appear it. As he accomplished as a journalist, and got abstaining which he has been for decades, he confused abroad from aggravating to get bodies to acquaint him things, and started attractive for hard, accurate evidence: government documents.
He became an able in prying them loose, with the advice of the Freedom of Advice Act, or FOIA.
Jason is so adamant — and so antipathetic of the babble excuses that government offices accord for not handing over the appurtenances — that he’s become the nation’s foremost FOIA journalist. The FBI already referred to him as a FOIA agitator in an inter-agency email.
He alone files added FOIA lawsuits than appealing abundant any added *entire annual organization* in the country – he’s abutting and abutting with the New York Times. Through the Freedom of Advice Act, he’s acquired abstracts that showed how prisoners at Guantanamo were force fed … and appear how the CIA justified the killing of American aborigine Anwar al-Awlaki. The acumen we apperceive any of the capacity of Hillary Clinton’s emails, alike if you disagree with how they were spun, is because Jason fought for them… on principle.
But FOIA has additionally accustomed Jason to get advice about actual important subjects. Like did the abstruse annual absolutely appointment Eminem over lyrics about Admiral Trump? In his song “The Ringer” … Eminem mentioned that they had.
MUSIC (EMINEM THE RINGER CLIP)
Jason Leopold So I aloof accursed off a request, a Freedom of Advice Act appeal to the Abstruse Annual to see if they had any annal on Eminem. Able-bodied a year later, I concluded up with these annal from the Abstruse Service, which were unbelievable. And these were annal that showed that the Abstruse Annual advised Eminem over what they perceived to be aggressive lyrics advertence Admiral Trump and Ivanka in the block of a car.
But these annal appear how the Abstruse Annual went to appointment Eminem and interviewed him and they alpha analytic Eminem. And afresh one of the agents, and this is how it’s appear in the document, one of the agents decides to recite the lyrics to one of his songs that they believed was threatening. And as they were annual it, and it says in the documents, Eminem began to rap along. He aloof started rapping with them. And that’s what it says in the documents, and I was like… I had to apprehend it twice, because it was such an amazing image.
MUSIC (EMINEM FRAMED CLIP)
Azeen Ghorayshi OK so that’s Jason.
Anthony Cormier is Jason’s advertisement accomplice at BuzzFeed News. He has as abounding tattoos as Jason … which is a lot. He got into advertisement aback he absolved into the Panama City Annual Herald in his aboriginal twenties and said, “Hire me, I’m a acceptable writer!” They gave him a job on the loading berth instead.
Azeen Ghorayshi Eventually he wrote a affection that afflicted his editors and he connected to assignment his way up. In 2016 aback he was at the Tampa Bay Times, Anthony won a Pulitzer Prize as allotment of a aggregation of reporters attractive into how desperate cuts to Florida’s brainy bloom arrangement resulted in alarming institutions, area patients and agents were afflicted and alike died.
Anthony and Jason both started at BuzzFeed Annual at a crazy moment, in January 2017, aloof as Donald Trump was about to booty office. The annual aeon was an amaranthine four-alarm fire. Like … on Anthony’s additional day on the job:
Anthony Cormier Kinda backward in the day and there was a flurry of action in the far bend of the room. And I’m new. I’m not accepting complex in any of that business.
Azeen Ghorayshi And that happens. That’s like a accepted occurrence.
Anthony Cormier Yeah, it happens in newsrooms
Azeen Ghorayshi You’re like, is it a llama chase? Or is it a breaking annual accident of civic importance?
Anthony Cormier Yeah, I bethink I was on Twitter I anticipate and got a advance alert. And clicked on a link. And was annual a BuzzFeed story, and I looked up and one of my colleagues was still there and I said, “What the fuck am I reading?” And it was the dossier.
Azeen Ghorayshi This is day two.
Anthony Cormier It’s my additional day of assignment and BuzzFeed Annual appear the dossier.
Azeen Ghorayshi This of advance is the Steele abstracts – aggregate by above MI6 administrator Christopher Steele, abounding of atomic — and ambiguous — allegations that the Russian government had compromising advice on afresh applicant Donald Trump.
Anthony Cormier You accept to bethink that at the time, there was a lot of belief about whether or not bluntly the Admiral was an asset of the Russian government, the Kremlin. You had above intelligence admiral on CNN every day adage it was true.
Azeen Ghorayshi Anthony and Jason hadn’t planned it, but it was now bright they were action to be accoutrement what they alleged the Money Trail: Trump, his blowzy business dealings, and Russia.
Anthony Cormier What are you allurement me to do? I don’t allege Russian. I don’t accept any sources in this world.
Jason Leopold I started aloof sending out messages. And I beatific out hundreds, hundreds and hundreds of messages.
Azeen Ghorayshi Anthony and Jason figured, if Trump is operating illegally, there’s a acceptable adventitious there’d be affirmation about aural a government bureau you apparently never heard of. A bureau aural the US Department of Treasury alleged FinCEN.
Jason Leopold FinCEN is the Cyberbanking Crimes Administering Network. They are the authoritative bureau aural Treasury as able-bodied as the law administering bureau aural Treasury that has blank of the banks. And their job is to ensure that these banks address any apprehensive cyberbanking transactions, ah, so they could action money laundering, agitator financing, and adulterous cyberbanking affairs that are demography abode in the US cyberbanking system.
Azeen Ghorayshi Jason and Anthony affable arch aboriginal into their Trump reporting. It was adamantine going, but afresh … they got admission to some abnormal documents. Abstracts they never anticipation they or any added anchorman would anytime lay their eyes on.
Anthony Cormier Some of them were cut off. Some of them you could acquaint were alone bisected of the affair that we were declared to have, they were artlessly a brace of lines. And I was told that these are some of the best acute abstracts that you can accept in the cyberbanking world.
Azeen Ghorayshi And what affectionate of abstracts were these?
Anthony Cormier These were the aboriginal apprehensive action letters that we received.
Azeen Ghorayshi Apprehensive Action Reports. If I’ve absent your absorption at all, now is the time to pay attention. Because Apprehensive Action Letters … they are at the centermost of this adventure about adulterous aphotic money that flows through our banks. You apperceive how Jason and Anthony said at the top that their advertisement for this gigantic adventure was based on abstruse government documents? … These are those government documents.
These letters are filed to the Treasury Department … to FinCEN, accurately … and afterwards they’re filed *no one* alfresco law administering and cyberbanking intelligence agencies and accustomed assembly of Congress is anytime declared to apperceive about them. You can’t amendment them in best acknowledged proceedings. If you’re the accountable of one, you’re never alike declared to know.
Only a scattering of Apprehensive Action Letters … they’re alleged SARs for abbreviate … accept anytime become public.
Azeen Ghorayshi So can you describe, Anthony, for like a absolute layman, what absolutely is a SAR? What’s in there?
Anthony Cormier Sure. So anytime the coffer suspects that there is article abnormal action on central of its accounts, it is appropriate by law to acquaint the US government about it. The way that it tells the US government about it is through a anatomy alleged a Apprehensive Action Report. They annual the name of the capacity who are articular as actuality or accepting done article suspicious. They acquaint you the amount. It tells you the coffer that flagged them. It tells you whether or not a law administering or intelligence bureau is involved.
Azeen Ghorayshi And afresh at the basal of the SAR there’s article alleged a narrative. And it’s what it sounds like – it’s a accounting area that explains why the coffer thinks a assertive transaction looks suspicious.
Anthony Cormier So you about get the best absolute appearance of an individual’s cyberbanking behavior that you can, alfresco of conceivably a leaked coffer account. So, it’s aggregate that you’ve done that they’ve accounted apprehensive is in there and absolutely generally they acquaint you why it’s suspicious, what they anticipate is happening, and what they’ve done with the account.
Azeen Ghorayshi So THAT is what Anthony was attractive at aback he was attractive at these acute cyberbanking abstracts for the aboriginal time.
Specifically, he was attractive at a SAR accompanying to Paul Manafort … Donald Trump’s above attack manager.
Anthony Cormier It appeared he was affective money in actual apprehensive ways. You know, ample annular dollar amounts that were array of pinging from one article to another. They were action from jurisdictions that are accepted to be tax havens, that are accepted to array of assure the identities of companies, all the hallmarks that banks see, you know, as red flags for money laundering.
Jason Leopold This was at the acme of the Mueller investigation, and what we were told was that Mueller was additionally attractive at this. That these abstracts were additionally actuality beatific to the Appointment of Special Counsel as they were archetype and investigating whether any of the funds, any of the affairs that were accounted to be apprehensive helped to armamentarium the arrest by Russia in the 2016 election.
Azeen Ghorayshi So those abstracts assuming apprehensive cyberbanking action by Paul Manafort … they knew it was acceptable that Robert Mueller was attractive at them, too. They didn’t apperceive if or aback the Appointment of the Special Counsel would accomplish any moves, but they knew the alarm was ticking, and they capital their adventure to be out first.
Anthony Cormier You apperceive afresh it was on a Friday night, and I anticipate it was my daughter’s additional birthday.
Azeen Ghorayshi Great timing.
Anthony Cormier It consistently is. And Ben Smith gave me a alarm and said, did you see what CNN aloof reported?
Azeen Ghorayshi Ben Smith was BuzzFeed News’s Editor-in-Chief at the time.
Anthony Cormier Special Counsel, according to CNN, was able to arraign the aboriginal actuality that it was action to. This was the day. And so we did a little advertisement and we’re like, oh shit, if we don’t run these abstracts we ability get biconcave by the Special Counsel.
Azeen Ghorayshi Anthony and Jason spent the weekend advertisement out added capacity … and on a Sunday morning … they appear a adventure adage that Mueller was attractive at affirmation of 13 apprehensive affairs conducted by Paul Manafort.
Anthony Cormier And Monday morning Mueller had accusable Manafort, and every distinct one of those 13 affairs were the courage of his indictment. And so, you apperceive we were in the game. I bethink calling Jason that Monday morning, you apperceive he’s in LA so I’m a little early. And I’m like bro man, get up. Get up, get up, get up, get up. Dude we got all of it. All of it was right.
Azeen Ghorayshi Added … afterwards a break.
Azeen Ghorayshi Aback we larboard off, Anthony and Jason had aloof burst a big adventure on Paul Manafort’s allegation by the Special Counsel based on apprehensive action letters on him.
But Manafort’s SARs were aloof the beginning.
It was amazing to anticipate of how able a certificate like this could be. And this was aloof one person’s SARs. The government collects millions a year. Imagine what abroad was out there.
Azeen Ghorayshi Jason do you bethink the day that you were absolutely beatific these documents?
Jason Leopold I do bethink aback I got the documents. But, I’m not gonna allocution about that.
Jason Leopold I’m not gonna allocution about sources or methods. The Treasury Department, the Cyberbanking Crimes Administering Network, the bureau that’s at the centermost of our reporting, um, they issued a account on September 1st. They acquaint it appropriate on the homepage of their website. So if you go to FinCEN.gov, the aboriginal affair that comes up is this statement. And the account says that they had become acquainted that some media outlets were action to broadcast belief based on Apprehensive Action Reports. And they afresh declared how the acknowledgment of Apprehensive Action Letters is unlawful, threatens civic security, endangers lives … potentially. And they referred the amount to the Department of Justice for investigation, as able-bodied as the Treasury Department Inspector General.
Um. You know. What I will say is this. Is that aback in 2017, um, aback I started at BuzzFeed, I was watching all of these annual outlets, our competitors – like the New York Times, the Washington Post, CNN – breach stories. And I am so angrily aggressive that I capital to breach those stories, too. And it brought me to a abode area one day I was able to say, I got aggregate that I need. You apperceive and aggregate that I charge to address what we’re now reporting. The day that I assuredly had the annal was a appealing alarming day. It was an alarming day and aloof this like amazing action of aloof … euphoria. And afresh aback you become paranoid.
Azeen Ghorayshi That day Jason anon got in blow with Anthony.
Anthony Cormier He said, “Are you at your computer?”
Jason Leopold He said, “Yeah.” And I’m like, “Standby.”
Anthony Cormier I’ve never apparent annihilation like it in my life.
Jason Leopold It was actual agitative to accelerate it to him, because we had both at that point been alive nonstop, night and day, for able-bodied over a year. And we had both been fantasizing about the day area we either get Trump’s taxes, or the pee tape, or whatever it is. We had aloof been fantasizing about this array of motherload. And actuality was a motherload. And I aloof bethink Anthony was like, angelic shit, oh my god. Oh my god.
Azeen Ghorayshi So aback you aboriginal got these bags of SARs beatific to you, like were you able to anon array of accomplish faculty of what you had in advanced of you?
Jason Leopold No. I beggarly look, the aboriginal affair that we did, that I did…
Azeen Ghorayshi CTRL F…
Jason Leopold Yeah! Thankfully they were all searchable, and I looked for Trump. I mean, that’s what I was reporting. I looked at how abounding instances does Trump’s name pop up or Kushner or Michael Flynn or anyone in that world.
Azeen Ghorayshi Trump, his campaign, or his businesses came up 27 times. Kushner and his aggregation … 10 times. They weren’t necessarily the capacity of the SARs, but that didn’t alike amount … because there was article alike added arresting – so abundant of what was in these tens of bags of pages of abstracts wasn’t about Trump Apple at all.
Anthony Cormier You know, it was difficult to accept anon absolutely what the abstracts said, but you started to see some of the best important names in the world. Oh my god, here’s Oleg Deripaska.
Oleg Deripaska is a mining magnate with abutting ties to Vladimir Putin. Deripaska already lent millions of dollars to Paul Manafort.
And this article and that article and we’re going, “What in the apple do we have?”
Azeen Ghorayshi What they had were added than two thousand alone Apprehensive Action Reports. A baby atom of the about two actor SARs that are filed with the federal government every year but still … what they appear was remarkable.
Anthony Cormier So we got the entities and individuals who had been requested as allotment of the Mueller investigation, as allotment of Congress’s piggybacking on the Mueller investigation.
Jason Leopold We now had every distinct certificate for the best allotment that Congressional committees were aggravating to obtain. Congressional committees that had been investigating the Trump administering had asked for this and they were not accepting this information.
Anthony Cormier They asked for everyone. Felix Sater, the Trump Organization, Sergey Kislyak, Konstantin Kilimnik, Paul Manafort. Anybody who was alike array of accidentally abutting in the Mueller analysis or assorted array of Congressional inquiries array of was independent in there. But. What happened was. Is the banks – seeing this appeal from Congress and Mueller – went out and casting a actual advanced net about some of these entities. So for instance, they asked for Deutsche Bank. There’s been a lot of advertisement on what affectionate of loans it fabricated to the president, why it fabricated those loans. So basically, Treasury went out and got aggregate on Deutsche that has annihilation at all to do with the acclamation and in actuality gives us greater acumen into the behavior of the bank. So you’ve got not aloof the actual adult affectionate of, oooh this is the President’s associates. But you’ve got this big across-the-board net that shows us the accomplished world, the accomplished cosmos of bad behavior, aphotic money, and how the banks accord with it.
Azeen Ghorayshi So it wasn’t aloof the bodies who amidst the Admiral … or anyone of absorption to the Special Counsel … Jason and Anthony now had in their control a affectionate of all-inclusive x-ray of the absolute all-embracing cyberbanking system.
But at the time …they didn’t apperceive it.
We’re action to get to some of the specifics … like that actual arresting adventure about Deutsche Coffer in approaching episodes, but let’s stick with this for appropriate now, because this is aback the accomplished action pivoted.
Jason and Anthony were sitting on bags of pages of documents. They had been beatific to them for some reason. And they started to think: there charge be article abroad there that we don’t yet understand.
So they stepped aback and they asked themselves: what if we zoom out and alpha to attending at all of this differently? What is the adventure these SARS are telling? Is there article actuality that goes way above Trump and Russia?
They alpha annual every chat of what they have. Seeing what dots they can connect. They cull in added bodies at BuzzFeed Annual to advice … And Anthony starts attractive into money that had been confused afterwards the abominable Trump Tower affair in 2016, area Russians offered to accord Donald Trump Jr. clay on Hillary Clinton’s campaign. He’s attractive at a SAR about all this … and the dots alpha to appear together. Like one of those abracadabra eye posters they advertise at the mall.
Anthony Cormier And I was attractive at a document, and in it, the coffer had flagged a alternation of affairs to NOBU. And NOBU is a acclaimed sushi restaurant co-founded by Robert DeNiro, who is one of the better anti-Trump bodies in Hollywood.
Azeen Ghorayshi To be bright … the allegations were adjoin a Nobu authorization in Russia, not the flagship restaurant in Manhattan. But still.
Anthony Cormier And I bethink attractive at this transaction like, delay a additional now. Alike at a acclaimed sushi restaurant? Like, what the hell is that?
Azeen Ghorayshi As they began to dig added into the documents, there was all kinds of actuality that was actuality flagged as suspicious.
Anthony Cormier Like, eBay sales, casinos, supermarkets, MoneyGram, like all of these entities area these banks are continuing to banderole actual abnormal behavior. Walgreens, dude! Like, aback you alpha to see it on that array of abate scale, right? That’s aback it begins to bell and that’s aback you accept like, oh my advantage gracious, this is a big all-inclusive cosmos that we’ve gotta become experts in adequately quickly.
Azeen Ghorayshi So, it’s not Trump Russia, it’s everything.
Anthony Cormier It’s the apple about you. I mean, FIFA, the Olympics, trading desks, gold, diamonds, oil, everything. Every area of the abridgement is besmirched in some way, by this bedraggled money.
Azeen Ghoraysh Next time … on Apprehensive Activity: Central the FinCEN Files … we dive into the bedraggled money abounding through one coffer you’ve absolutely heard of. What happened there … and the bent action the coffer facilitated is shocking. Attending for it this Thursday.
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