London [UK], Mar. 21 : Britain's high street banks processed nearly USD 740 million from a vast money-laundering operation run by Russian criminals with links to the Russian government and the KGB, according to a report by the Guardian.
According to the report, HSBC, the Royal Bank of Scotland, Lloyds, Barclays and Coutts are among 17 banks based in the UK, or with branches here, that are facing questions over what they knew about the international scheme and why they did not turn away suspicious money transfers.
The investigators are still trying to identify some of the wealthy and politically influential Russians behind the operation, known as "the Global Laundromat" and have estimated that a group of about 500 people were involved including oligarchs, Moscow bankers, and figures working for or connected to the FSB, the successor spy agency to the KGB.
Igor Putin, the cousin of Russia's president, Vladimir, sat on the board of a Moscow bank which held accounts involved in the fraud.
The Global Laundromat banking records were obtained by the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) and Novaya Gazeta from sources who wish to remain anonymous. OCCRP shared the data with the Guardian and media partners in 32 countries.
The documents include details of about 70,000 banking transactions, including 1,920 that went through UK banks and 373 via U.S. banks.
The data is understood to be part of the evidence gathered in a three-year money-laundering investigation led by police in Latvia and Moldova.
Detectives have unraveled a conspiracy that involved billions of dollars being sent from suspected criminals in Russia via accounts in Latvia and Moldova held at banks notorious for their exposure to money-laundering scams.
The trail led investigators to 96 countries and to a network of anonymously owned firms, most of them registered at Companies House in London.
Most of the 21 core companies under scrutiny have been dissolved.
The scale of the operation has staggered law enforcement officials.