The documents were originally leaked to BuzzFeed News, which later shared them with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ).
There are over 2,000 suspicious activity reports (SARs) filed with the US government’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN), the documents show.
SARs are filed by banks and other financial institutions when they believe a client is misusing their services to carry out potential criminal activity. Nevertheless, the filing of an SAR does not mean that the bank should stop doing business with the client in question.
Major banks appear to have provided financial services to high-risk individuals from around the globe and in some cases this happened even after they had been placed under US sanctions, according to the documents.
The documents, which relate to over $2tn of transactions dating from between 1999 and 2017, show that one of the people named in the SARs is political strategist Paul Manafort, who led Republican President Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential election campaign for several months.
Manafort had to resign after his consultancy work for former Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych was exposed. He was convicted by a jury in August 2018 of five counts of tax fraud, two counts of bank fraud and one count of failing to disclose foreign bank accounts.