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Natalie Edwards Was Imprisoned this Month by the U.S. for Blowing the Whistle on Wall Street Banks’ Laundering of Dirty Money

Courtesy of Pam Martens

Natalie Mayflower Sours Edwards received her Ph.D. in 2007 from Virginia Commonwealth University. Her dissertation was titled: “Core Competences Required to Lead an Executive Level at the Department of Homeland Security.”

On Friday morning, September 3, Edwards began serving a six-month sentence, to be followed by three years of supervised release, in the Federal Prison Camp known simply as “Alderson” in Alderson, West Virginia. There is currently a notice on the prison camp’s website that reads: “All visiting at this facility has been suspended until further notice.” This means that a woman who set out to help her country ferret out criminal money laundering now finds herself unable to even visit with her husband or her 16-year old daughter.

Edwards is the heroic former Treasury official who tried in vain to get her superiors in the federal government to act on her concerns. Left with no other options to get action, she turned over documents to a BuzzFeed News reporter that became the core of the FinCEN Files, a collaborative investigation involving BuzzFeed News, the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists and 108 other news organizations.

In effect, Edwards spawned an international news bureau focused on exposing the flow of dirty money around the globe by big name banks such as JPMorgan Chase, Deutsche Bank, HSBC, Standard Chartered, and Bank of New York Mellon. One in-depth report at the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) captures the magnitude of Edwards’ service to the public interest with this headline: “Global banks defy U.S. crackdowns by serving oligarchs, criminals and terrorists: The FinCEN Files show trillions in tainted dollars flow freely through major banks, swamping a broken enforcement system.”

Part of that broken enforcement system is FinCEN itself. FinCEN is an acronym for the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, a unit of the U.S. Treasury Department where banks are required to report suspicions of illicit money transactions. The filing forms are known as SARs, short for suspicious activity reports. Edwards turned over more than 2,000 of these SARs to her media contact at BuzzFeed News.

What Edwards found, and is borne out by the reporting that followed her document disclosures, is that banks file these reports simply to cover their behinds, then they continue laundering the money for the same corrupt officials. FinCEN is either structured to look the other way and/or too afraid of the political heft of the banking lobby to take any meaningful actions to counter this vast illicit money machinery.



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