The Bank of New York Mellon (BNY Mellon) processed $137 million in funds connected to the Ponzi scheme OneCoin, according to leaked documents sent to financial watchdog Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN).
The documents in question are from a collection of over 2,500 files that were sent to the bureau of the United States Department of the Treasury. The files were sent to FinCEN by banks around the world between 1999 to 2017 and included over 2,000 Suspicious Activity Reports (SARS). The files account for over $2 trillion in transactions.
According to "FinCEN Files" — an investigation by Buzzfeed News and the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) — the bank flagged suspicious transactions by several companies associated with OneCoin. According to the bank, these companies were using "layering," a technique used to mask the source of illegal funds by transferring it through different transactions.
OneCoin was a Ponzi scheme that was passed off as a new digital cryptocurrency by founder Ruja Ignatova and others involved. In March 2019, the U.S. Justice Department charged Ignatova and the other leaders behind the scheme with wire fraud, securities fraud and money laundering. OneCoin raised an estimated $4 billion worldwide before the scam was shut down in 2017.
The FinCEN files showed one specific transaction in 2016 when Fenero Equity Investments, a company based in the British Virgin Islands, sent about $30 million from its account at Cayman-based bank DMS Bank & Trust, to BNY Mellon. Fenero called the payment "a loan for CryptoReal," an account that was set up by Ignatova.
In a statement sent to the ICIJ, BNY Mellon said it “takes its role in protecting the integrity of the global financial system seriously, including filing Suspicious Activity Reports. As a trusted member of the international banking community, we fully comply with all applicable laws and regulations, and assist authorities in the important work they do."
OneCoin and Ignatova did not respond to ICIJ's requests for comment.