20200927 The FinCEN Files - misleading the public and benefiting from criminal conduct: Page 4 of 8

20200927 The FinCEN Files - misleading the public and benefiting from criminal conduct

Nigel Morris-Cotterill

There is, at present, a state of excitement amongst the media, some financial crime consultants and some politicians in response to what they are being told is public opinion.

The so-called FinCEN Files were heavily telegraphed in a media blitz more akin to the launch of a Hollywood film that has cost a fortune but the result isn't as good as was hoped.

In the USA and the UK, mainstream media outlets have published a series of articles that, they say, arise because of what it has found in documents obtained illegally from the USA's Financial Intelligence Unit, FinCEN.

No one seems to notice that all those who are profiting from the articles are gaining a benefit from criminal conduct.

That's just one reason why I would not have worked on the FinCEN papers, had I been asked (I wasn't and I'm glad).

"In the public interest" is not the same as being interesting to the public

Those publishing the material claim that it is in the public interest. "in the public interest" is not the same as "of interest to the public."

There is no doubt that much of that in the articles is interesting. In some cases, it's very interesting. But "in the public interest" is a technical concept. It has nothing to do with the journalist's cry "the public has a right to know." The public absolutely does not have the right to know what is in suspicious activity reports filed by bank, lawyers, estate agents and car dealers amongst many others. "In the public interest" relates to whether there is a secret, the keeping of which harms the public. That is not the case with the SARs. There can be no argument about this: what is in SARs is protected in every country in the world for several reasons including that the keeping of the secret is for the protection for individuals in the business that filed the SAR.

In fact, the information in SARs is likely to identify individuals who have made reports relating to organised crime and otherwise powerful people and, of course, ordinary criminals with a tendency for violent retribution against that individual or his family. The problem with that is that, even if no retribution arises from this extraction of data, staff in businesses that must report and their compliance officers are likely to be worried that the protection they were assured they would have is no longer present.

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