The Islamic State’s infamous rule over vast areas of Iraq during 2014 and 2016 not only led to a humanitarian crisis, but also left the country’s economy depleted. Its expansion in Iraq, marked by its control over vast areas of the country, most notably capturing the city of Mosul in June 2014, also allowed the organisation to seize over 121 bank branches according to the Central Bank, in what was described as one of the largest bank robberies the world has ever seen. Across its operations, the Islamic State stole a total of approximately $830 million.
Despite this, some banks, including Deutsche Bank and specifically its US branches, continued to allow money transfers to be sent to Iraq despite the group’s control over large parts of the country.
Leaked banking documents obtained by BuzzFeed News and shared with ICIJ, ARIJ and other media partners as part of the FinCEN Files investigation, reveal suspicious money transfers of at least $4 billion flagged by Deutsche Bank’s US branches and Bank of America, to a number of Iraqi banks between 15 June 2014 and 30 June 2015.
From 2 to 13 February 2015, The Bank of America flagged 524 bank transfers moving from US bank accounts to various Iraqi bank branches for over $16.8 million, and from 18 to 20 May of the same year, The Bank of America flagged 244 bank transfers that ranged from $46.54 to as much as $28 million at a time, for a total of approximately $41.4 million.
The bank filed the two suspicious activity reports (SARs) “as part of a special project by The Bank of America to identify wire transfers that are originating from, and being sent to, these financial institutions located in Iraq.”
The SAR filed in June indicates that 109 of the bank transfers were sent from seven Iraq-based banks to The Bank of America clients and totalled over $900,000, while 54 outbound wire transfers were sent for more than $7 million.
“81 wires totalling $33,409,836.12 were conducted via correspondent bank relationships that involved numerous financial institutions on a global level,” The Bank of America reported.
Similarly, Deutsche Bank Trust Company Americas filed their SARs to FinCEN “in conjunction with ongoing law enforcement collaboration,” the exact nature of which is unclear.
Their first report of the 15 SARs filed in January 2015, monitored 3,844 transactions made between 15 June 2014 to 15 December 2014 worth over $2.3 billion involving 13 Iraqi banks.
No client information or details on the beneficiaries were included in any of the bank’s reports.