FinCEN Files source sentenced to six months in prison


A former government official who shared confidential bank documents with a journalist, triggering a global investigation into illicit cash flows, has been condemned Thursday to six months in prison by a US federal judge.

The conviction marks the end of a long saga for public servant Natalie Mayflower Sours Edwards, who worked as a senior advisor at the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network at the US Treasury Department before her arrest in 2018.

At the heart of the Edwards case were the so-called suspicious activity reports, highly confidential documents that banks are required to submit to FinCEN when they suspect a customer is committing a crime or transferring stolen money. . The office and the financial data it collects play a crucial role in the fight against money laundering. Last year, Edwards pleaded guilty leaked files to a reporter, whom other court documents identify as Jason Leopold of BuzzFeed News.

The sentencing order, made by Judge Gregory Woods of the Southern District of New York, requires Edwards to spend three years on probation after his prison term.

“A meaningful sentence is important in this case to get a fair sentence,” Woods said, explaining the sentence in a Manhattan courtroom. “She abused a position of trust and broke a law designed to arrest criminals.”

After the conviction, BuzzFeed News for the first time recognized that Edwards was his source for the approximately 2,100 secret bank reports who propelled the FinCEN files investigation.

“Thanks to the courage of Ms. Edwards, BuzzFeed News, along with the 108 media organizations of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, were able to release the FinCEN files, which exposed financial corruption on a global scale,” the door said. -by BuzzFeed News, Matt Mittenthal. A declaration. “This survey has helped inspire major reforms and lawsuits in the US, the EU and countries around the world. “

In court records, Edwards presented herself as a whistleblower who turned to the media to expose misconduct in her office. She believed Treasury officials illegally stored sensitive financial data on U.S. citizens and that FinCEN may not have provided full information to the U.S. Congress to investigate Russian interference in the U.S. elections, according to one. criminal record.

Upon conviction, Edwards’ attorney Stephanie Carvlin said Leopold had “cultivated” Edwards as a source because she believed it was imperative to speak out against wrongdoing and had exhausted internal channels of reporting, according to BuzzFeed News.

Upon her conviction, Edwards apologized for leaking FinCEN files and claimed she had informed several federal government offices of her disclosures.

Justice Woods said that while Edwards initially seemed motivated by the whistleblower, the records she provided to the media covered scope far beyond her original concerns.

The FinCEN Files survey is credited with sparking new efforts from governments around the world to fight against money laundering.

After the conviction was made public, Ben Smith, former editor of BuzzFeed News and now a media columnist for The New York Times, criticized the decision.

“This woman is going to jail for six months for her role in exposing global systemic financial corruption and in inspiring legal change around the world,” he wrote in a statement. Tweeter.

After the ICIJ, BuzzFeed News and other partners approached the Treasury Department with the findings of the investigation, the Department ad a plan to “respond to the evolving threats of illicit financing”. New York’s leading banking regulator, which plays an important role in overseeing global banks, has acknowledged that dirty money has metastasized “in the bowels of financial institutions. “

Key members of Congress credited the FinCEN Dossiers to play an important role in the final push that led to the passage of the Business transparency law, the largest overhaul of US anti-money laundering policy in a generation. Authorities in Liberia, Seychelles, UK and Thailand investigations launched and the legislators of The European Parliament asked a more aggressive approach to combating money laundering.

In its statement, BuzzFeed News highlighted reforms triggered by the mine of files leaked by Edwards.

“Natalie Mayflower Sours Edwards is a courageous whistleblower,” said Mittenthal, spokesperson for BuzzFeed News. “She fought to warn the public of serious risks to the national security of the United States, first through the formal whistleblower process, then through the press. She did it, despite enormous personal risks, because she believed she owed it to the country she loves.

In a statement, ICIJ Director Gerard Ryle said: “The FinCEN files have revealed for the first time in detail how powerful global banks knowingly profit from corruption and how authorities around the world allow the black economy to thrive.

“Natalie Mayflower Sours Edwards has seen evidence of massive wrongdoing globally and risked her freedom to educate the public about both the misconduct and the many failures to thwart it. His actions and our reporting sparked unprecedented international reform. “

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