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Police Raided A Bank After Secret Files Revealed Slush Funds Linked To The Kremlin, Organized Crime, And ISIS

The FBME Bank in Cyprus was raided by police on suspicion of money laundering. A BuzzFeed News investigation from last winter revealed a farcical scramble inside FBME to conceal incriminating information — while some of the planet's most prestigious accountants and lawyers used their powers to keep the bank in business.

Posted on June 4, 2019, at 1:18 p.m. ET

Yiannis Kourtoglou / AFP / Getty Images

The offices of FBME bank in Nicosia, Cyprus.

Police in Cyprus have launched a criminal investigation into FBME Bank after BuzzFeed News exposed how it was awash with dirty money linked to the Kremlin, Syrian chemical weapons, organized crime, and ISIS.

Executives at FBME Bank scrambled to lie, threaten, use forgery, and shred their way to success, leaked files obtained by BuzzFeed News revealed in 2017, while major American law firms battled to keep the bank in business, and top accounting firms overlooked glaring signs of money laundering.

The files exposed a web of accounts at FBME, which moved millions of dollars from suspect Moscow-based figures, including associates of Russian President Vladimir Putin. More leaked documents showed how Deutsche Bank approved hundreds of millions of dollars of FBME transactions, providing a crucial bridge between the bank and the global financial system.

Sian Butcher / BuzzFeed

BuzzFeed News published its findings in December 2017.

Now police are formally investigating the bank for “conspiracy to commit a felony, money laundering, obtaining money by means of false pretences, document fraud and other related offences,” a spokesperson for the Cyprus Police told BuzzFeed News.

Last week, police raided three properties as part of the probe. The police used search warrants and collected a number of items, the spokesperson said, adding, “They will be examined and if they consist of proof they will be used in court procedures.” Raids were first reported by the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project.

No arrests have been made, and the investigation is ongoing.

FBME conducted much of its business from the idyllic Mediterranean island of Cyprus, but legally held its headquarters in Tanzania. In 2014 the US government declared FBME an “institution of primary money laundering concern” and forbade American banks from doing business with it. The Cypriot treasury closed the bank and took it over.

In the aftermath of the announcement, the bank set out to clear its name, hiring top-end American law firms Quinn Emanuel and Hogan Lovells to launch a lawsuit against the US government, claiming that FBME had been unfairly blacklisted. The bank lost the case.

FBME’s owners did not respond to a request for comment.

A BuzzFeed News investigation, in partnership with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, based on thousands of documents the government didn't want you to see.