CBA says ‘not every problem’ fixed after money-laundering allegations

Commonwealth Bank chief Ian Narev admits “not every problem” has been fixed following allegations it breached money laundering laws.

Mr Narev was grilled by journalists today over civil action against the bank taken by regulator Austrac, which alleges more than 53,000 breaches of money-laundering laws.

CBA today set out action it had taken to comply with the laws since it was first alerted in 2015 to failures in reporting transactions by its smart ATMs.

But when asked why Austrac would take action against CBA if the problem had been rectified, Mr Narev said: “We’re not saying every problem’s been fixed.

“We need to go through and work……and I’m not going to sit here and say every problem’s been fixed.

“It is important to bear in mind that we have a regulator here that is a very diligent regulator with an extremely important job to do. Austrac needs to exercise its powers, and be seen to exercise its powers very forcefully.”

CBA retreated 0.7 per cent after Mr Narev’s press conference began to a new session low of $80.87.

Mr Narev also defended CBA’s decision not to report alleged breaches to the market before Austrac last week launched civil action in the Federal Court.

“We report around four million transaction reports to Austrac each year. We exercise judgment as to what requires disclosure … our view is that these things didn’t come anywhere near (that requirement) in the form they came at the time.”

Austrac alleges CBA’s repeated failures to deal with suspiciously large and repeated cash deposits into its smart ATMs delayed and hindered enforcement ­efforts, costing agencies intelligence­ and evidence while ­allowing money laundering to continue.

Questioned today, Mr Narev said: “We’re going to look very carefully at the claims and why warnings that claimed to have been given were not heeded.”

He added: “It’s going to be important to make people understand that a lot of work has been done since these claims were brought to our attention. A lot of work still needs to get done and we’ll continue working closely with Austrac.

“The reality is, when dealing with criminal elements, people find ways to circumvent the limits that you put on (the machines).”

Mr Narev also denied CBA had profited from transactions at the centre of the civil action.

“There is no economic reason that would underpin the alleged activity and that’s not part of the equation,” Mr Narev told journalists. Nor was there any evidence the bank had assisted with any terrorist funding.

Mr Narev was speaking after the CBA said earlier it had no reason to believe alleged breaches of money-laundering laws arose from deliberate or unethical behaviour, or any commercial motive.

The statement came as CBA’s board moved to create a dedicated subcommittee to deal with the allegations by Austrac, with $40 million worth of new anti-money laundering technology to be delivered over the next 12 months.

CBA released its update after today unveiling a bumper $9.9 billion full-year profit, and after it yesterday slashed bonuses for CEO Ian Narev and senior executives, and cut directors’ pay, in the wake of over 53,000 alleged breaches of money-laundering laws.

In a statement earlier today, CBA said it had become aware in the second half of 2015 of “alleged issues” relating to threshold transaction reporting (TTRs) on CBA’s network of intelligent deposit machines (IDMs).

CBA said it had already made some progress in strengthening its policies and processes relating to its obligations under the Anti-Money Laundering and Counter-Terrorism Financing Act.

The board has already moved to cut the short-term variable remuneration outcomes for Mr Narev and group executives for the financial year ended June 30, 2017. Fees for non-executive directors have also been slashed 20 per cent during the current 2018 financial year.

“This reflects our view that the board, CEO and group executives take ultimate collective responsibility for the reputation of the bank,” the CBA board said.

With management accountability now under a microscope, CBA’s board maintains that the bank had not been deliberately complicit in any laundering activity carried out over its network of smart ATMs.

“The board notes that it has no reason to believe that the allegations arose from deliberate or unethical behaviour, or any commercial motive,” it said.

CBA said this week its automated reporting system was knocked offline by a coding error introduced during a software update in 2012.

The bank added that the error was rectified as soon as it was notified and it had taken significant additional steps, including the addition of manpower to its criminal compliance team, the development of a specialist hub to strengthen its Know Your Customer (KYC) processes; and an upgrade of its financial crime technology capabilities.

Mr Narev added this afternoon: “We are not saying it’s all about a software error … we’re saying a significant proportion was due to a coding error. We are going into this with an open mind and we’re going to look at every single claim under the supervision of the committee. It’s going to take a while.”

Mr Narev today repeated the bank made “made mistakes”.

“It’s been a tough time at the Commonwealth Bank since the Austrac proceedings were filed and we’re taking them very seriously,” Mr Narev said. “We know that we’ve made mistakes; we have fixed a lot of those mistakes and we will continue to look to make our business better and better.”

While each of the more than 53,000 alleged contraventions carries a maximum penalty of $18m, the bank has downplayed the prospect of a massive penalty, arguing the breaches overwhelmingly relate to a single software error.

In a separate development, ANZ responded to media reports by declaring it has

systems in place to ensure it complies with anti-money laundering obligations.

“We are also subject to continuous supervision from Austrac and have no outstanding requirements,” ANZ said.

ANZ said Austrac had reviewed its smart ATMs in late 2015 and found no evidence of noncompliance with anti-money laundering regulation.

http://www.theaustralian.com.au/business/financial-services/cba-says-no-unethical-behaviour-behind-moneylaundering-scandal/news-story/f5fed05fa40066ce18af27042878620f

Photo: James Croucher

FinCEN Fines BTC-e Virtual Currency Exchange $110 Million for Facilitating Ransomware, Dark Net Drug Sales

WASHINGTON—The Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN), working in coordination with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of California, assessed a $110,003,314 civil money penalty today against BTC-e a/k/a Canton Business Corporation (BTC-e) for willfully violating U.S. anti-money laundering (AML) laws. Russian national Alexander Vinnik, one of the operators of BTC-e, was arrested in Greece this week, and FinCEN assessed a $12 million penalty against him for his role in the violations.

BTC-e is an internet-based, foreign-located money transmitter that exchanges fiat currency as well as the convertible virtual currencies Bitcoin, Litecoin, Namecoin, Novacoin, Peercoin, Ethereum, and Dash. It is one of the largest virtual currency exchanges by volume in the world. BTC-e facilitated transactions involving ransomware, computer hacking, identity theft, tax refund fraud schemes, public corruption, and drug trafficking.

“We will hold accountable foreign-located money transmitters, including virtual currency exchangers, that do business in the United States when they willfully violate U.S. anti-money laundering laws,” said Jamal El-Hindi, Acting Director for FinCEN. “This action should be a strong deterrent to anyone who thinks that they can facilitate ransomware, dark net drug sales, or conduct other illicit activity using encrypted virtual currency. Treasury’s FinCEN team and our law enforcement partners will work with foreign counterparts across the globe to appropriately oversee virtual currency exchangers and administrators who attempt to subvert U.S. law and avoid complying with U.S. AML safeguards.”

FinCEN acted in coordination with law enforcement’s seizure of BTC-e and Vinnik’s arrest. The Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation Division, Federal Bureau of Investigation, United States Secret Service, and Homeland Security Investigations conducted the criminal investigation.

Among other violations, BTC-e failed to obtain required information from customers beyond a username, a password, and an e-mail address. Instead of acting to prevent money laundering, BTC-e and its operators embraced the pervasive criminal activity conducted at the exchange. Users openly and explicitly discussed criminal activity on BTC-e’s user chat. BTC-e’s customer service representatives offered advice on how to process and access money obtained from illegal drug sales on dark net markets like Silk Road, Hansa Market, and AlphaBay.

BTC-e also processed transactions involving funds stolen between 2011 and 2014 from one of the world’s largest bitcoin exchanges, Mt. Gox. BTC-e processed over 300,000 bitcoin in transactions traceable to the theft. FinCEN has also identified at least $3 million of facilitated transactions tied to ransomware attacks such as “Cryptolocker” and “Locky.” Further, BTC-e shared customers and conducted transactions with the now-defunct money laundering website Liberty Reserve. FinCEN previously issued a finding under Section 311 of the USA PATRIOT Act that identified Liberty Reserve as a financial institution of primary money laundering concern.

BTC-e has conducted over $296 million in transactions of bitcoin alone and tens of thousands of transactions in other convertible virtual currencies. The transactions included funds sent from customers located within the United States to recipients who were also located within the United States. BTC-e also concealed its geographic location and its ownership. Regardless of its ownership or location, the company was required to comply with U.S. AML laws and regulations as a foreign-located MSB including AML program, MSB registration, suspicious activity reporting, and recordkeeping requirements. This is the second supervisory enforcement action FinCEN has taken against a business that operates as an exchanger of virtual currency, and the first it has taken against a foreign-located MSB doing business in the United States.

https://www.fincen.gov/news/news-releases/fincen-fines-btc-e-virtual-currency-exchange-110-million-facilitating-ransomware

 

 

Criminal mastermind’ of $4bn bitcoin laundering scheme arrested

The Russian “internationally sought ‘mastermind’ of a crime organisation” accused of laundering more than $4bn in bitcoin, including funds obtained from the hack of failed bitcoin exchange Mt Gox, has been arrested in Greece.

A US jury indicted Alexander Vinnik on Wednesday after his arrest in a small beachside village in northern Greece on Tuesday, following an investigation led by the US justice department along with several other federal agencies and task forces.

Vinnik was described by the justice department as the operator of BTC-e, an exchange used to trade the digital currency bitcoin since 2011, which was allegedly used to launder more than $4bn for people involved in crimes ranging from computer hacking to drug trafficking.

US authorities also linked him to the failure of Mt Gox, the Japan-based bitcoin exchange that collapsed in 2014 after being hacked. Vinnik “obtained” funds from the hack of Mt Gox and laundered them through BTC-e and Tradehill, another San Francisco-based exchange he owned, they said in the statement.

“Just as new computer technologies continue to change the way we engage each other and experience the world, so too will criminals subvert these new technologies to serve their own nefarious purposes,” said Brian Stretch, US attorney for the Northern District of California.

Vinnik’s arrest is the latest in a series of US operations against Russian cybercriminals in Europe, including the taking down of two of the biggest dark web marketplaces for drugs, guns and other illicit items, AlphaBay and Hansa, last week.

The prosecutions also coincide with intensified scrutiny of Russian hackers after US intelligence officials determined that Russia interfered in the 2016 US presidential election using cyber-warfare methods to help Donald Trump, something Moscow denies.

During his time in the digital currency market, US authorities allege Vinnik facilitated crimes including hacking, fraud, identity theft, tax refund fraud, public corruption and drug trafficking. Greek police described Vinnik as a “an internationally sought ‘mastermind’ of a crime organisation”.

BTC-e, which has been out of service for more than a day, attributed this to “unplanned maintenance”. In a tweet on Wednesday after the arrest of Vinnik, BTC-e said it would restore service in the next five to 10 days.

The exchange is one of the oldest virtual currency platforms. It allows users to trade bitcoin pseudonymously against a variety of fiat and virtual currencies, and is known in cryptocurrency markets as having relaxed standards for checking users’ identity, and for not collaborating with law enforcement.

https://www.google.com/amp/s/amp.theguardian.com/technology/2017/jul/27/russian-criminal-mastermind-4bn-bitcoin-laundering-scheme-arrested-mt-gox-exchange-alexander-vinnik

Cuban man accused of laundering $238 million in Medicare payments must face trial

A Cuban businessman charged with laundering $238 million in illicit Medicare payments through South Florida will have to face trial now that a federal judge has rejected his motion to dismiss a massive money laundering case against him.

The motion by Jorge Emilio Perez de Morales to dismiss the indictment was highly unusual because the 52-year-old is considered a fugitive after fleeing to Spain.

Through his Miami defense attorney, the absent Perez asked a magistrate judge to throw out the case, claiming he was running a legitimate remittance company outside the United States so he couldn’t have committed a crime.

But this month, Magistrate Judge Patrick Hunt denied his motion, saying the U.S. money-laundering conspiracy charge filed five years ago extends beyond the boundaries of this country because the alleged offense happened here.

“If he wishes to contest the charges in this case, [Perez] will have to first submit to the court’s jurisdiction,” Hunt wrote in a nine-page ruling. “If he would like to go to trial, the door to the federal court, as always, remains open.”

Perez’s attorney, Stephen Golembe, has until Friday to appeal the judge’s ruling. It came in response to an unusual hearing in March, when the judge, Golembe and federal prosecutor Ron Davidson debated whether Perez is a fugitive — a thorny legal issue arising from the fact that he has yet to be arrested on the money-laundering conspiracy charge. His lawyer said he isn’t; the prosecutor said he is.

https://www.google.com/amp/amp.miamiherald.com/news/local/article157126544.html

 

 

Skimming device found at Cocoa Beach gas station

Cocoa police showed off the devices that were helping thieves steal money at a gas station pump.

A maintenance worker discovered credit card skimmers at the Chevron station at 2700 U.S. Highway 1.

Police are not sure how long the device may have been in place.

Authorities are asking customers who made fuel purchases there to contact their credit card company to verify all recent transactions.

Additionally, they are asking people to be on the alert for any other devices that may be in place in the area.

http://www.wesh.com/article/skimming-device-found-at-cocoa-gas-station/10036202

 

GOLDMAN SACHS: Bitcoin is looking ‘heavy’

Bitcoin has had a blistering start to 2017. It’s up about 180% so far this year. However, its near-term outlook isn’t looking so hot, according to a note released on Monday by Goldman Sachs head of technical strategy Sheba Jafari.

“The market has come close (enough?) to reaching its extended (2.618) target for a 3rd of V-waves from the inception low at 3,134,” Jafari wrote. “It’s on track to forming a bearish key day reversal if today’s close settles below 2,749.”

Bitcoin hit a lifetime high of nearly $3,000 a coin on Monday, but was unable to hold onto those gains. The cryptocurrency finished the day at $2,599, well below the key technical threshold of $2,749 that was singled out by Jafari.

Now, traders should be paying close attention to $2,475 on a weekly basis, as a close below there would cause even more damage to the technical picture, according to Jafari. “Both daily/weekly oscillators are diverging negatively. All of this to say that the balance of signals are looking broadly heavy.”

Jafari isn’t alone in calling for at least a near-term top in the cryptocurrency. “I think it’s in a bubble,” tech billionaire Mark Cuban tweeted last Tuesday. “I just don’t know when or how much it corrects. When everyone is bragging about how easy they are making $=bubble.” Cuban did not say how far he thought bitcoin would fall.

So where will bitcoin go from here? “Wary of a near-term top ahead of 3,134, Jafari concludes. “Consider re-establishing bullish exposure between 2,330 and no lower than 1,915.”

https://www.google.com/amp/s/amp.businessinsider.com/bitcoin-price-goldman-sachs-2017-6

 

 

 

South L.A. charter school founder charged with embezzlement, money laundering

The head of a now-defunct South L.A. charter school has been charged with embezzlement and money laundering, accused of funneling roughly $200,000 from the school to a company she owned, prosecutors said Thursday.

Kendra Okonkwo, 51, was charged with misappropriation of public funds, grand theft by embezzlement, money laundering and keeping a false account, according to a news release issued by the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office. Her son, 29-year-old Jason Okonkwo, is accused of approving fake invoices to further the plot and faces the same charges, prosecutors said.

Kendra Okonkwo founded the Wisdom Academy for Young Scientists near the Watts neighborhood in 2006, but the school quickly became a target of regulators and lost its charter in 2016. She and her son were arrested in Los Angeles on Thursday morning and remain jailed in lieu of $145,000 bail, according to Deputy Dist. Atty. Dana Aratani, who is prosecuting the case.

From January 2012 to March 2014, approximately $201,000 was transferred from the school to an unnamed business run by Okonkwo, according to the district attorney’s office. The money was then transferred to her personal bank account, prosecutors said.

Her son approved a number of fake invoices, purportedly for the purchase of school supplies and food from his mother’s “shell company,” that documented the transfer of money, prosecutors said.

Okonkwo did not immediately return a call seeking comment, and it was not immediately clear if she or her son have retained attorneys.

Both face up to six years in prison if convicted. A court date has yet to be scheduled.

The school operated under the authority of the Los Angeles Unified School District until 2011, when the district declined to renew the school’s charter, citing violations of education code and conflicts of interest.

Okonkwo agreed to step down as the school’s director as part of an agreement with the county to stay in operation, but she named several relatives and associates to key positions at the school.

That move, according to the findings of a 2014 state audit, allowed her to retain control and benefit from transactions at the academy.

According to the audit’s findings, Okonkwo, her family members and close associates received about $2.6 million in payments from the school. None of the employees in question indicated any financial interest in school affairs on required conflict-of-interest statements, the audit said.

Among the audit’s findings, the organization leased two properties owned by Okonkwo’s holding company, paying more than $1 million in rent over six years. The school also paid Okonkwo $228,665 in severance, unused vacation and a vehicle lease despite a lack of documents to support the amount.

The audit also found the school had paid more than $158,800 to a company owned by a relative of Okonkwo. The payments were supposedly for school supplies, but state auditors could not confirm that the school received any of the materials for which it paid.

Aratani said prosecutors began reviewing Okonkwo’s conduct and business dealings after the audit results were released. An arraignment could take place as early as Friday, he said.

Last year, Okonkwo agreed to pay $16,000 in fines as part of a settlement with the state’s Fair Political Practices Commission after she was found to have established leases for the school at buildings she owned and used public funds to renovate those properties.

“In this matter, Okonkwo engaged in a pattern of violations in which she made, used or attempted to use her official position to influence governmental decisions involving real property in which she had a significant financial interest,” the commission said last year.

When the county began the process of revoking the school’s charter in 2014, Okonkwo claimed she was being “slandered.”

“I’m not a soldier; I’m not a politician. I’m just an educator,” she said at the time.

http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-charter-school-founder-charged-20170518-story.html

Photo: My News LA 

Cyprus bank investigated Paul Manafort accounts for possible money laundering

A bank in Cyprus investigated several accounts tied to President Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort for possible money laundering, according to a new report.

At least one of about 15 accounts associated with Manafort was used to take in millions of dollars from a billionaire supporter of Russian President Vladimir Putin, NBC News reported Tuesday.

Banking sources said transactions from some of those accounts raised enough concern for the bank to open an internal investigation for potential money laundering.

Once the probe opened, Manafort shut the accounts, the sources said.

A Manafort spokesman said in a statement to NBC News that all of the accounts existed only for “a legitimate business purpose” with clients in Cyprus, a Mediterranean island nation often used for Russian money transfers.

“All were legitimate entities and established for lawful ends,” the statement said, adding that Manafort had “no specific personal recollection” of closing the accounts.

Manafort served as the second of Trump’s three presidential campaign advisers, but the longtime lobbyist resigned after four months when reports emerged of his potentially illegal off-the-books deals for $12.7 million from the party for former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych.

Manafort is now at the center of multiple federal probes — including investigations from the CIA, FBI and the Treasury Department — for potential Russian connections, and more of his money mysteries have emerged just this year.

Manafort’s NYC real estate moves raise money-laundering suspicion

Real estate experts said Manafort made several odd real estate transactions in New York City — spanning a period of 11 years — using tactics that resemble money laundering.

Using limited liability companies to buy real estate is not unusual or illegal — but large loans on properties bought with cash can often be a red flag, experts say.

The Associated Press also revealed that Manafort secretly worked for a Russian billionaire advancing Putin’s interests in 2005.

The AP reported last week that Manafort proposed an ambitious political strategy in a June 2005 memo that was based on work he had done in Ukraine. Manafort described how his plan could be used to influence politics in the United States and Europe to the benefit of the Russian government.

http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/cyprus-bank-investigated-paul-manafort-accounts-laundering-article-1.3012694

Photo: Reuters

 

21 charged in casino-based money laundering scheme

Federal authorities are moving to dismantle what they describe as a multistate, multimillion-dollar money laundering operation with the indictments of 21 people accused of using counterfeit cards and stolen account numbers for cash withdrawals and retail purchases at casinos and luxury stores.

The case is the latest in an FBI crackdown on money laundering in Las Vegas, but the alleged criminal behavior extended far beyond city borders, according to the 47-count indictment unsealed last month in federal court.

Eleven of the defendants are in custody, being held on money laundering and related charges, and 10 are fugitives.

Authorities say the scheme lasted from 2013 until the arrests, which occurred earlier this year in several states across the country. Prosecutors are seeking upward of $6 million in forfeiture — a response, they say, to fraudulent proceeds obtained through the use of counterfeit cards and “card skimming” technology.
The indictment details a lavish lifestyle enjoyed by those charged in the conspiracy, and legal filings reveal that Las Vegas served as the operation’s home base.

Most of the alleged criminal activity occurred in casinos and popular nightspots throughout the city. The government asserts that the players used swindled funds to run up annual tabs of $95,000 at each of two of Las Vegas’ trendiest social destinations: Hakkasan and XS nightclubs.

When they weren’t paying for bottle service, drinks and other gratuities during late-night escapades, the indictment alleges, the defendants were casino hopping — up and down the Strip, and across the country — to New Orleans; Biloxi, Mississippi; and Detroit. The casino trips might have been a legal gamble, but, according to authorities, they certainly were not a financial risk.

http://www.reviewjournal.com/crime/courts/21-charged-casino-based-money-laundering-scheme

Photo: Think Stock

Big U.S. banks to push for easing of money laundering rules

America’s largest banks are to propose a complete overhaul of how financial institutions investigate and report potential criminal activity, arguing that rules imposed in the years after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks and strengthened during the Obama administration are onerous and ineffective, sources said. The Clearing House, a trade association representing the largest U.S. banks including Goldman Sachs (GS.N), JPMorgan Chase & Co (JPM.N) and Bank of America (BAC.N), has long raised concerns about the effectiveness of the current rules, but this will be the first time the group has publicly called for them to be revamped.

The proposal, which could be published as soon as Thursday, will set the stage for an intensive lobbying effort targeting bank regulators and members of the Senate and House of Representatives finance committees. President Donald Trump has said he wants to cut costly regulations for Wall Street.

To keep drug traffickers and terrorists from laundering money through the U.S. financial system, federal law mandates that bank employees file a Suspicious Activity Report (SAR) with authorities if they suspect transactions could be part of a crime.

http://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-banks-moneylaundering-exclusive-idUSKBN15V1E9