Customs special unit: what does the FIU do?


Status: 09.09.2021 2:51 p.m.

The Finance Intelligence Unit, or FIU for short, is a special unit of the Customs Criminal Police Office. Your task: to track down money laundering. But how does the FIU actually work?

By Lothar Lenz, ARD capital studio

At the beginning of the 1990s, many countries in the western world began to set up special authorities for the prosecution of money laundering, in English “Financial Intelligence Units” or FIU for short. In Germany, a national FIU was founded in 2001, i.e. 20 years ago. The FIU is now subordinate to the Customs Criminal Police Office – and thus ultimately to the Federal Minister of Finance. It currently has almost 500 employees, but is expected to grow significantly in the years to come. The FIU is located in the Dellbrück district of Cologne.

Control of cash flows

The main task of money laundering supervision is to control national and international payment flows. On the one hand, this serves to combat terrorism, and on the other hand, the international community wants to combat the illegal arms trade and drug trafficking – because the income from such transactions is often laundered through other branches of the economy, for example through real estate purchases.

Routine reports from banks are an important source of information for the FIU. They have to report monetary transactions above a certain size to the FIU – i.e. the amount, the sender and the recipient of the sum. The FIU then tries to clarify whether the sum was acquired legally or from dubious sources.

Corruption and tax evasion

But there are also other tasks that the financial control authority can perform. Through her insight into larger monetary transactions, she can also track down corruption or criminal tax evasion. The German FIU is also increasingly relying on artificial intelligence in order to discover anomalies in the myriad of payment transactions.

Why did suspicious transaction reports fall so sharply?

If the FIU suspects that a financial transaction is not clean, it must report this suspicion to the police or the judicial authorities. The Osnabrück public prosecutor’s office is now investigating the suspicion that such reports were not passed on to the police and the judiciary by the FIU. So it is about the accusation of thwarting punishment in office.

As the “Handelsblatt” reports, the number of suspicious activity reports dropped by leaps and bounds in 2017 – now the investigators want to know why. For some time now, critics have complained that the FIU is understaffed for its task and works ineffectively. In the scandal surrounding the insolvency of the Munich payment service provider Wirecard just over a year ago, the failure or delay in forwarding suspicious transaction reports by the FIU played an important role.

What does the FIU do?

Lothar Lenz, ARD Berlin, 9.9.2021 1:52 p.m.

Source link