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More than a dozen government officials, including former central bank governor and his deputy, have come under investigation in Liberia after $ 104 million of newly printed banknotes vanished from the state purse. Liberia has issued a travel ban to Milton Weeks, the ex-Central Bank of Liberia chief, his deputy Charles Sirleaf, son of former president Ellen Jonhson Sirleaf, and several others pending the investigation.
Liberia Enlists FBI, IMF To Help Recover Missing Funds
The Liberian government has enlisted the United States of America and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to assist in the investigation of L$ 16 billion (roughly US$ 104 million), which disappeared from state coffers.
This comes as the West African country on Wednesday barred at least 15 people, including former central bank governor Milton Weeks and Charles Sirleaf, son of the former president, from leaving the country pending the investigation.
According to the Liberian Observer, President George Weah’s administration approached the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI), Treasury Department and the IMF seeking assistance in the ongoing probe, to “adequately account for all flaws of monies printed and brought into the country between 2016 and 2018.”
Liberia’s Justice Ministry indicated that the investigation is critical to the formulation and implementation of a credible and robust monetary and macroeconomic policy in the years ahead.
The missing cash – the equivalent of nearly 5% of Liberia’s Gross Domestic Product – was ordered by the Central Bank of Liberia from printers in Sweden, China, and Lebanon but is yet to be traced after a series of shipments.
Liberia does do its own mint.
Records show that the money went missing between November 2017, toward the end of former president Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf second term in office, and August this year.
‘We Know Nothing About Missing Money’
Milton Weeks, who claims ignorance over the missing millions, says that he’s fully co-operating with police investigations.
“I have been invited to come and assist with the investigation and I’m doing that, I myself want us to get to the bottom of this to understand where the allegation is coming from,” he is quoted as saying.
Ex-president Johnson-Sirleaf said the investigation was baseless, designed to soil her reputation and those with whom she served.
“It is most unfortunate that the government of Liberia would give false information that wickedly impugns the reputation of past officials and by extension the country itself,” she told African news site FPA.
The Information Ministry on Thursday insisted that newly minted Liberian banknotes entered the country through the Roberts International Airport and the Freeport of Monrovia, from where they vanished.
The Ministry says President Weah was “never in the know of the money being brought into the country, something (which) is very strange.
Liberian officials have a history of stealing public funds. Charles Taylor, the jailed former dictator who was forced out of office in 2003, is believed to have stolen or diverted nearly $ 100 million of his country’s wealth, leaving it the poorest nation on earth, according to a close review of government records by United Nations team of experts.
A 2013 report in the New York Times revealed how Taylor stole government money to buy houses, cars, and sexual partners.
Do you think cryptocurrencies can help to prevent theft of public funds in Africa? Let us know what you think in the comments section below.
Images courtesy of Shutterstock
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New York has sued the United States over a decision to allow financial technology companies to apply for special national banking charters, saying the move is “lawless” and “ill-conceived” and will destabilize financial markets that are more effectively regulated by the state.
Maria Vullo, superintendent…
Decentralised cryptocurrencies like bitcoin are anathema to traditional banking. Bitcoin allows people to trade directly with each other, bypassing banks, the conventional middlemen. Banks make money by charging fees for the services they provide, including keeping one’s money in a bank. It is no surprise, therefore, that they hate cryptocurrency. But banks aren’t guiltless, they have facilitated some of the most egregious financial crimes of our time.
‘Return Our Stolen Assets’
President Muhammad Buhari has demanded HSBC Bank returns up to $ 100 million it allegedly helped former dictator Sani Abacha launder from the Nigerian economy.
Abacha ruled Nigeria with an iron fist for five years until he died of a heart attack in 1998. During his rule, the Nigerian economy improved somewhat, with inflation plummeting to 8,5 percent in 1998 from about 55 percent five years earlier. Forex reserves shot more than 1,800 percent to $ 9,6 billion.
But the former army general is accused of plundering the West African country at a grand scale, looting more than $ 4,3 billion of Nigeria’s oil wealth while still President. Transparency International has listed Abacha as the world’s fourth most corrupt leader in history.
“Our investigation agencies believe that HSBC had laundered more than US$ 100 million for the late General Sani Abacha in Jersey, Paris, London, and Geneva,” Nigeria’s presidential spokesperson Malam Garba Shehu, said in a statement issued to the local Leadership newspaper on September 16.
“Among these accounts on the records are: AC : S-104460 HSBC Fund Admin Ltd. Jersey ($ 12 million); AC 37060762 HSBC Life (Europe), UK ($ 20 million) and AC : 38175076 HSBC Bank Plc, UK ($ 1.6 million),” Shehu said.
Shehu was reacting to a report by HSBC Bank in July, which predicted the Nigerian economy would decline if President Buhari won a second term in office in general elections slated for next year.
He continued: “The Presidency wishes to make clear to all Nigerians, and particularly the global banking giant HSBC…that what killed Nigeria’s economy in the past was the unbridled looting of state resources by leaders, the type which was actively supported by HSBC.
“A bank that soiled its hand with ‘millions of US dollars yet- to- be – recovered Abacha loot’, and continued until a few months ago to shield the stolen funds of one of the leaders of the Nigerian Senate has no moral right whatsoever to project that a second term for Mr Buhari raises the risk of limited economic progress and further fiscal deterioration.”
Shehu said, “we ask them (HSBC)…to return our stolen assets…”
The Nigerian anti-corruption body, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, on Sunday also accused the British bank of being “involved with laundering proceeds of corruption for over 50 Nigerians including a Nigerian serving Senator.”
HSBC Holdings plc is one of the largest banking and financial services organisations in the world. HSBC’s international network comprises around 7,500 offices in over 80 countries and territories in Europe, the Asia-Pacific region, the Americas, the Middle East, and Africa.
But the firm has been forced to pay billions of dollars in fines for money laundering and other financial crimes. In the US, HSBC paid $ 1.92 billion for helping to facilitate the laundering of Mexican drug money, and several million were paid in Hong Kong for systemic deficiencies.
Of the Abacha loot, the US has repatriated about $ 480 million that was stashed in banks in that country. In 2006, Switzerland handed back $ 500 million to Nigeria – the first time any bank in Europe had returned stolen money to a country in Africa. The continent loses up to $ 50 billion in illicit financial flows each year, according to the African Capacity Building Foundation.
Do you think cryptocurrencies can help stem the flow of corrupt money in Africa? Let us know what you think in the comments section below.
Images via Shutterstock.
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This week Dutch authorities revealed to the public that the Netherlands’ largest financial services provider, ING, had violated numerous money laundering laws because they didn’t scrutinize unusual transactions and certain accounts.
Netherlands’ Largest Bank Admits: “ING Clients Used Their Bank Accounts for Money Laundering Practices for Years”
Over the last few weeks, many large financial institutions have been investigated and charged with helping facilitate money laundering. Financial crime prosecutors from the Netherlands have charged the Dutch bank ING with violations, and a $ 900 million dollar fine because the financial institution unwittingly helped facilitate money laundering. The Dutch police explain its “impossible” to really estimate how much money was actually laundered through sketchy accounts and unusually large transactions. However, Margreet Frohberg the lead prosecutor of the case explained in an interview that “hundreds of millions of euros” were illegally transferred.
Moreover, Frohberg explains the money laundering and financing terrorism has been taking place “for years,” and ING did not properly inspect these transfers or examined the accounts to the best of their ability. According to other reports, the money laundering transgressions took place between 2010 and 2016 and some large “unusual” payments stemmed from a firm called Veon (formerly Vimpelcom). Veon is also paying a separate fine of around $ 795 million to the US for money laundering charges as well. ING has admitted to the financial infractions in response this week, stating:
“The shortcomings identified resulted in clients having been able to use their bank accounts for money laundering practices for years”, ING explained.
Too Big to Jail & Too Big to Fail: No Evidence of Individual ING Banks Knowingly Aiding the Money Laundering
The news also follows the recent $ 150 billion dollar money laundering probe aimed at Danske bank, Denmark’s largest financial institution. According to reports, the probe also implicated Deutsche Bank and Citigroup over “allegations of massive money laundering flows from Russia and former Soviet states.”
ING has detailed it will pay the $ 900 million but has explained that no individual ING banking institution was aware of the violations taking place. Dutch prosecutors have also confirmed that they had “found no evidence” of ING staff knowingly aiding the money launderers. However, ING’s Chief Executive Ralph Hamers said ten employees were either dismissed or saw their bonuses taken away.
“We have made unacceptable mistakes,” Hamers explained to the press this week. “This calls for drastic measures, which we have taken,” he added.
2018 is becoming eerily similar to the years following the economic collapse of 2008, where the world saw the banks pay hundreds of billions in fines, but no bankers were jailed. That year the US Department of Justice and Eric Holder promised bankers would be jailed for the economic crisis that plagued the world. Of course, the globe found out later that the bankers and the political nobility were ‘too big to jail.’ Many people believe the current Danske probe that also involves quite a few more financial giants, and this week’s ING money laundering fines clearly show the economic elite have no problems with paying petty fines, because to this very day the banking giants are still ‘too big to fail.’
After responding to the $ 900 million in fines for money laundering charges, the Dutch bank ING also detailed that it does not expect to be charged with fines by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) in the US.
What do you think about ING paying $ 900 million in fines for the money laundering charges? Let us know what you think about this subject in the comment section below.
Images via Pixabay, Shutterstock, and ING bank.
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U.S. law enforcement agencies have started their money laundering investigations of Danske Bank, Denmark’s largest bank, according to the Wall Street Journal. Citigroup and Deutsche Bank have been implicated. Danske Bank is also currently under investigation by Denmark and Estonia and its CEO reportedly ignored warnings of suspicious transactions.
$ 150 Billion Money Laundering Case
The Wall Street Journal reported on Friday, September 14, that “The [U.S.] Justice Department, Treasury Department, and Securities and Exchange Commission [SEC] are each examining Danske Bank after a confidential whistleblower complaint was filed to the SEC more than two years ago,” citing a person familiar with the matter. According to the person and the documents the news outlet has reviewed:
U.S. law enforcement agencies are probing Denmark’s largest bank over allegations of massive money laundering flows from Russia and former Soviet states…U.S. involvement in the case greatly raises the stakes for Danske Bank.
An estimated $ 150 billion are suspected to have flowed through non-Estonian customer accounts held at Danske Bank’s Estonian branch from 2007 to 2015 – from countries such as Russia, Azerbaijan, and Moldova. The publication added that the bank’s investigators have not revealed if the entire amount should be viewed as suspicious. The bank has been conducting an internal investigation and will release the results on September 19, a notice on its website states.
Danish and Estonian authorities have been investigating the bank and have shared information with their U.S. counterparts, several European officials familiar with the matter told the news outlet.
Why Is the US Interested?
The U.S. has yet to officially confirmed that it is investigating Danske Bank. Two weeks ago, Marshall Billingslea, U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Assistant Secretary for Terrorist Financing, told Danish daily Berlingske “We are following this case very closely.” Reuters elaborated:
While the bank does not have a banking license in the United States, it has a bond program in dollars and its Estonian branch saw U.S. dollar customer flows, which could heighten interest among U.S. regulators.
The Wall Street Journal explained that the U.S. Treasury can restrict the supply of U.S. dollars to foreign banks and the Treasury and Justice Department can fine banks.
Adam Barrass, an analyst at Berenberg, noted back in July that the key risk to Danske Bank was “the potential U.S. fine because [of] Danske’s use of dollar funding and transactions,” the Financial Times reported.
CEO Ignores Money Laundering Signs
According to the Financial Times, Danske Bank’s CEO, Thomas Borgen, ignored calls to scale back business at the Estonian branch when warned of money laundering activities. The minutes seen by the news outlet reveals that the CEO was informed at a meeting in October 2013 that:
The level of activity in its [Danske Bank’s] Estonian branch from outside the country — mostly from ex-Soviet states and Russia — was higher than that of rivals and ‘needed to be reviewed and potentially reduced’.
Instead, Borgen responded by emphasizing “the need for a middle ground, and wanted to discuss this further outside of this forum,” the publication noted.
The Wall Street Journal additionally detailed, “Estonian officials are investigating 26 former Danske employees, from low-level staff to the former branch CEO. They are accused of helping to launder $ 230 million in money from an alleged fraud committed in Russia.”
Deutsche Bank and Citigroup Implicated
Citing the person familiar with the probes, the Wall Street Journal also reported:
The whistleblower complaint identified Deutsche Bank AG and Citigroup Inc., both overseen by U.S. regulators, as involved with transactions into and out of Danske Bank’s Estonian branch.
Deutsche Bank acted as a correspondent bank for Danske, handling dollar wire transfers while Citigroup’s Moscow office was involved in some of the transfers through Danske Bank’s Estonian branch, the person told the publication.
With the ongoing probes, the bank’s share price has been on a sharp decline this year.
Why are regulators going after crypto with so much money laundering going on in the banking system? Tell us what you think in the comments section below.
Images courtesy of Shutterstock, Yahoo Finance, and Danske Bank.
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The government of Mexico has published provisions regarding cryptocurrency. The Bank of Mexico will decide which cryptocurrencies are legal and fintech companies must gain approval from the central bank to operate in the crypto space.
Fintech Law Applies to Crypto
The Mexican government published a circular containing new legislation for the fintech industry on September 10 in the official gazette of the federation. It includes provisions for cryptocurrencies.
According to the president of the National Banking and Securities Commission (CNBV), Bernado Gonzalez, “The fintech law is meant to regulate financial and technological institutions in Mexico, making it the first country in Latin America to establish a legal framework for this type of company,” El Universal reported. Gonzalez explained that “the rules would apply to crowdfunding companies, online payments, and cryptocurrencies.”
The document states that companies wanting to carry out transactions involving cryptocurrencies “must request authorization from the Bank of Mexico so that they can use those technologies associated with any of the virtual assets” approved by the bank.
La Verdad elaborated:
The Bank of Mexico (Banxico) reported that as of this Tuesday, September 11, financial institutions that are interested in offering ‘financial technology services with virtual currencies and foreign currency operations’ may send their request specifying the commissions that will be charged to the public.
The news outlet opined, “In other words, a green light is given for the exchange of cryptocurrencies for cash.”
Gonzalez detailed that this regulation “opens up the possibility for small and medium-sized companies to obtain financing from the public through collective funding platforms…without having to go to a traditional credit institution…the rates offered today are much lower than in other financial intermediaries,” Televisa quoted him. The publication further noted that “The authority expects 73 fintech companies to apply for registration.”
Central Bank Is in Charge
Companies may only handle the cryptocurrencies that the Bank of Mexico determines to be appropriate, the circular explains. However, the central bank has yet to announce which cryptocurrencies are legal.
Noting that the fintech law defines cryptocurrencies as “virtual assets,” Gonzalez reiterated that “the Bank of Mexico will establish which ones may be used in Mexico and which fintech or banks may carry out transactions with them,” El Universal conveyed. Criptonoticias elaborated:
Banxico will determine what type of crypto assets…can be traded through this class of operators. The institution will be responsible for granting or denying the corresponding permits. Companies must comply fully with the country’s legislative body in order to obtain this permit.
The aforementioned fintech provisions “indirectly affect the management of virtual assets,” the publication noted, adding that “the general provisions for cryptocurrencies” are expected to be published before March 10, 2019.
What do you think of Mexico’s crypto rules? Let us know in the comments section below.
Images courtesy of Shutterstock and the World Bank.
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China’s sovereign-wealth fund and other large investors have expressed interest in potentially buying shares in Deutsche Bank AG from embattled Chinese conglomerate HNA Group Co., according to people familiar with the matter.
WSJ.com: What’s News Asia
Bank executives rarely get punished for their misdeeds, leading to many people distrusting the entire banking system as plagued with widespread corruption. But once in a while someone has to bite the bullet. Recently, public anger has forced a CFO of a major bank to quit after a huge money laundering affair came to light.
CFO Leaves ING
ING Group (EPA:INGA), the Dutch multinational banking corporation, has announced on Tuesday that Koos Timmermans will step down from his position as chief financial officer and member of the executive board and will leave the company. The bank admitted that his resignation follows the announcement on September 4 about a settlement regarding shortcomings to prevent financial economic crime at ING Netherlands. During the investigated period (2010-2016) Timmermans was a member of the management board and for several years responsible for ING Netherlands.
“We deeply regret the shortcomings found and take this matter very seriously,” said Hans Wijers, chairman of the Supervisory Board of ING. “Given the seriousness of the matter and the many reactions among stakeholders since the announcement and in the interest of the bank, we came to the conclusion it is appropriate that responsibility is taken at Executive Board level. We have a serious task ahead of us and the Executive Board is fully committed to completing the various initiatives we have started at ING Netherlands to further strengthen our handling of compliance risks.”
€775 Million Fine
Last week ING agreed to pay a fine of €675 million and €100 million for disgorgement as part of a settlement agreement with the Dutch Public Prosecution Service, following investigations regarding money laundering and corrupt practices. However, the bank claimed at the time that, the “identified shortcomings that occurred in the period investigated are not attributable to some individual persons but rather collective shortcomings at all responsible management levels.”
This position was only reversed after public anger swelled in the Netherlands, resulting in CFO Timmermans losing his position. Prime Minister Mark Rutte was the most senior figure to voice his displeasure and the Dutch Finance Minister, Wopke Hoekstra, summoned Wijers to The Hague, reportedly stating the affair had “shaken public faith in the banking sector yet again”. Additionally, shareholder interest group VEB asked for an examination of CEO Ralph Hamers’ part in the matter and its president, Paul Koster, suggested that Timmermans was just a “sacrificial victim”. Adding that, “For outsiders…this has the appearance of being about protecting Hamers.”
Should the public be more angry about banks facilitating money laundering? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.
Images courtesy of Shutterstock.
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Doing business, relying on your own abilities and talents to make a living, shouldn’t be so hard to start. But unlike the times when almost everyone was a farmer, a craftsman, a merchant, basically a businessman, in today’s realities overreaching state regulations, initial capital needs, unhealthy competition from the bigwigs in an industry, often present insurmountable entry barriers for the average, hard-pressed, sometimes heavily indebted, wannabe entrepreneur.
Practical Steps Towards Economic Freedom
It Takes a Global Village – Like in the old days, and that will probably never change, you need a bazaar to sell your merchandise, regardless of the specifics of the project. In modern times we call it Internet. An online enterprise must get you in touch with many potential buyers, customers and expand your world of opportunities. So you would likely need a website.
Keep It Simple Stupid – You don’t necessarily need a pricey page, however. You’ll be surprised to find how many of those fancy websites you visit every day are based on free, open-source CMS platforms. Go for WordPress, Joomla, Drupal, or any similar… Pick a nice template from Themeforest, Template Monster… For money sake, you can even get a decent free one… just google it!
Ask for a Favor – Everything seems to have a price tag nowadays and we tend to forget some things are priceless. Need a hand with the website? Look around, call a friend. Choosing a domain, a hosting service, simple SEO optimization, basic tuning of the template and so on – a treat, maybe some satoshis should get you through this stage. Here’s a favor – if you need decent free pics to dress up your website, check out platforms like Rgbstock.com, Pexels.com and many more.
No Bank, No Pain – Following these simple steps should put your business online, most certainly without the need for borrowed capital. The next smart step would be to find ways to get by without lending your own capital to an institution that would only hand you a contract with lots of small letters and catch-22s in return for your precious cash. Go crypto! Preserve your Privacy!
Make Crypto! – Undauntedly, business is no charity, you need to earn money out of it. Whatever you want to be selling is going to be a product of your time, effort, ingenuity. If you don’t want to lose large part of your hard earned reward on fees, commissions, chargebacks, double taxation, duties and so on, and you don’t want to make your clients spend much more than what they get – make sure to integrate crypto payments on your platform. And yes, you can spend your crypto profits in many ways, for example through services offered by companies like Wirex and Paytomat.
Here’s a tip – Say you built a simple online store with WordPress, there’s a bunch of useful extensions that would allow you to charge your customers in cryptocurrency. In your admin panel, go to extensions, search for bitcoin and a number of suggestions will pop up – click “install” for the one you’ve chosen after carefully reading its description and follow the instructions. You’ll be prompted for your FTP password and then you have to set it up. Need a crypto wallet – here’s our suggestion. Many of these plugins support a number of popular cryptocurrencies. Here’s another tip – not all cryptos are born equal. Bitcoin cash (BCH) for instance offers low cost, fast transactions compared to other cryptocurrencies. The next tip has to do with, well, tips – note that some of these add-ons are free of charge when used for crypto tipping, while extras like accepting orders and payments, displaying prices and exchange rates may be included only in their premium versions. The example comes from a plugin called Cryptocurrency All-in-One but you can also choose extensions offered by established processors like Bitpay.
A Permissionless Solution – Thinking about business, a company comes to mind right away, but you actually don’t need to be “Incorporated” or “Limited” – farmers and craftsmen didn’t need to be, remember? Setting up a firm, even in jurisdictions with favorable business climates, may often require opening an office, having a fire extinguisher in it, paying more for electricity and phone, enduring multiple inspections, and at the end of the day – getting a zillion permissions. In many countries, however, an individual entrepreneur can skip those time consuming and expensive steps, without breaking the law, by simply registering as a self-employed person. This is a low cost and almost permissionless solution that saves you a ton of paper, money, red tape and still gives you some of the benefits of being a corporate entity.
Have you thought of starting a business without government permissions and bank accounts? Share your thoughts on the subject in the comments section below.
Images courtesy of Shutterstock.
OP-ed disclaimer: This is an Op-ed article. The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own. Bitcoin.com does not endorse nor support views, opinions or conclusions drawn in this post. Bitcoin.com is not responsible for or liable for any content, accuracy or quality within the Op-ed article. Readers should do their own due diligence before taking any actions related to the content. Bitcoin.com is not responsible, directly or indirectly, for any damage or loss caused or alleged to be caused by or in connection with the use of or reliance on any information in this Op-ed article.
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U.S. Bank says it will offer nearly instant small loans to its customers, becoming the first bank to provide such a product since federal regulators cleared the way earlier this year amid continuing concerns over the costs of payday loans.
The Minneapolis institution, the nation’s fifth-largest…