FinCEN report: HSBC shares drop to lowest level since 1995

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Led by 108 global media outlets from 88 countries, the probe was based on thousands of suspicious activity reports (SARs) submitted by banks around the world to the United States (US) Treasury Department's Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN).

Earlier today, the Monetary Authority of Singapore said it was studying media reports that Singapore banks had informed United States regulators of suspicious transactions, adding that it would take "appropriate action" based on the outcome of its review. Banks are required to file an SAR whenever handling funds that cause grounds for suspicion of criminal activity. A bank must fill in one of these reports if it is anxious one of its clients might be up to no good.

Europe's largest bank is a possible candidate for China's "unreliable entity list" that aims to punish firms, organizations or individuals that damage national security, the Chinese Communist Party's Global Times tabloid reported on Saturday.

In total, these reports flagged more than $2 trillion in transactions between 1999 and 2017, according to BuzzFeed News. Panorama has led research for the BBC.

Banks have hired thousands of employees to beef up anti-money laundering and financial crime teams, and some withdrew from certain countries and dropped correspondent-banking ties with hundreds of smaller lenders.

On Monday in Hong Kong, the shares fell by more than 4% to less than HK$30.

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In its introduction to the report, BuzzFeed News nonetheless said: "These documents, compiled by banks, shared with the government, but kept from public view, expose the hollowness of banking safeguards, and the ease with which criminals have exploited them".

In a statement Monday, HSBC said it started a "multi-year journey" eight years ago to overhaul its ability to fight financial crime in more than 60 jurisdictions, making it "a much safer institution than it was in 2012".

BNY Mellon said it fully complied with all "all applicable laws and regulations".

Numerous suspicious transactions were linked to companies incorporated in Britain or offshore British territories, prompting calls from action groups for tougher rules.

A leaked set of USA government documents suggests some of the biggest names in global banking were involved in moving dirty money around the world, in some cases for criminals. "The reality is that there will always be attempts to launder money and evade sanctions; the responsibility of banks is to build effective screening and monitoring programmes to protect the global financial system".

The report by the ICIJ highlights 173 bank transactions that went via South Africa - at a total value of nearly $61 million (R1 billion) - which were flagged as potentially suspicious. "That's why you see that sometimes SARs were raised over 100 days after the transaction", said Cliff Lam, a director at AlixPartners in Hong Kong.

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