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Vienna-Based FinCEN Becomes Central Figure in Blockbuster Investigation

FinCEN, a Tysons-based bureau of the U.S. Department of the Treasury, has become a central figure in an international investigation by Buzzfeed News.

The organization — officially the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network — ­has been located in Tysons since 2004 at the Tycon Courthouse, otherwise know as the “Toilet Bowl.”

FinCEN was created in 1990 to support federal, state, local and international law enforcement through analyzing information required under the Bank Secrecy Act, according to the agency’s website. It also is meant to use collection, analysis and dissemination of financial intelligence and strategic use of financial authorities to protect the financial system from unlawful use, combat money laundering and promote national security.

According to FinCEN’s site, the organization utilizes the following methods to fulfill its responsibilities of detecting deterring financial crime:

  • Issues and interprets regulations authorized by statute;
  • Supports and enforces compliance with those regulations;
  • Supports, coordinates, and analyzes data regarding compliance examination functions delegated to other Federal regulators;
  • Manages the collection, processing, storage, dissemination, and protection of data filed under FinCEN’s reporting requirements;
  • Maintains a government-wide access service to FinCEN’s data, and networks users with overlapping interests;
  • Supports law enforcement investigations and prosecutions;
  • Synthesizes data to recommend internal and external allocation of resources to areas of greatest financial crime risk;
  • Shares information and coordinates with foreign financial intelligence unit (FIU) counterparts on AML/CFT efforts; and
  • Conducts analysis to support policymakers; law enforcement, regulatory, and intelligence agencies; FIUs; and the financial industry.

This week, Buzzfeed News published its investigation of the “FinCEN Files” that include more than 2,100 Suspicious Activity Reports (SARs). Buzzfeed News and the Consortium of Investigative Journalists obtained the files that reportedly reveal global financial corruption, banks involved in it and government agencies actions in regard to these events.

The report details more than $2 trillion in transactions and spans to more than 170 countries and territories. The articles published by Buzzfeed News report on money laundering and the financial movements of terror networks, drug cartels, organized crime and other organizations through international banks.

The Buzzfeed investigation noted that while the number of SARs going to FinCEN have more than doubled, staffing at the agency has declined by 10%, leaving many of the SARs unread.

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