Last month, BuzzFeed News published what it described as "an investigation of historic scale": The FinCEN Files.
With the help of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), a combined force of 400 journalists from 88 countries dug into more than 2,000 of the most secretive government documents known as 'suspicious activity reports' (or SARs for short). So secret in fact, few people knew of their existence, including the journalists about to dip into the files.
The documents were obtained through the efforts of senior BuzzFeed News journalists Anthony Cormier and Jason Leopold, who had first used them to investigate President Trump's former campaign manager Paul Manafort over alleged Russian influence in the 2016 US election. Little did they know these SARS would reveal an oil spring of stories.
A series of FinCEN Files investigations followed, detailing multiple examples of how dirty money filters into the global economy via complicit banks. A five-part podcast series 'Suspcious Activity: Inside The FinCEN Files' followed with the most prominent stories emerging from the documents.
In this week's podcast, we talk to Richard Holmes, one of the main BuzzFeed News investigative reporters involved in the project. He took the reins on one story in particular involving two whistleblowers at Standard Chartered bank who flagged up SARs related to suspicious Iranian clients. We learn more about the inner workings of a collaborative investigation which was so sensitive and explosive in nature.
🚨NEW: For 2 years, I have been working on a massive, global financial investigation w/my @BuzzFeedNews colleagues based on secret US govt docs we shared w/@ICIJ, internal bank records & intvs w/100s of sources.— Jason Leopold (@JasonLeopold) September 20, 2020
Here's Day 1 #FinCENFiles https://t.co/YnOOE3bMdG