Borrows money laundering

The warning was urgent and worrying: criminals were taking advantage of the coronavirus pandemic "for financial fraud" and "terrorists could use the opportunity to raise funds" too. She published the at the beginning of April Financial Action Task Force, FATF for short, the most important international body for combating and preventing money laundering and terrorist financing, in which 35 member states and the EU Commission are represented, including the Federal Ministry of Finance.

Now, these days, Berlin has put together the largest rescue package in German history in the fight against the Corona economic crisis, amount: 1.2 trillion euros. Medium-sized companies can now even apply for loans with a full state guarantee. Although only healthy companies affected by Corona are formally allowed to apply for these state loans, at the same time, at the request of the industrial and banking associations, the financial institutions have now been released from joint liability for the loans and should expressly waive the otherwise usual risk assessment. Everything should go as quickly as possible. For the righteous part of the economy this is help in dire need.

For money launderers and organized crime, the quick money from the state also offers an opportunity to expand their illegal business. The clear warning from the FATF against the misuse of the aid by criminal gangs contrasts with the loose control measures in the allocation of funds to the companies. Federal Finance Minister Olaf Scholz (SPD) has even recommended that the employees of the house banks "let it be a little five" when checking the promotional loans.

In the meantime, the financial supervisory authority Bafin, which is subordinate to the Federal Ministry of Finance, has relaxed the audit obligations to avoid money laundering - at least for promotional loans, which are now to be granted quickly and unbureaucratically. "There are simplified due diligence obligations when granting loans," says Ingrid Hengster, who is responsible for Corona aid on the board of the state-owned development bank KfW. She means "for example a later identification with a low risk of money laundering". The Bafin also announced that "appropriate additional measures are to be taken at a suitable time" only if there is a suspicion. But money laundering and criminal payments are often a matter of seconds - and windy and elusive straw people protect the criminal backers.

"All of this is a gateway for money launderers and criminals. Here, public funds are now being passed without sufficient control, and state guarantees would have to check whether credit-seeking companies last paid taxes or whether they invested," says anti-money laundering expert Andreas Frank . Straw people could now, for example, use existing GmbHs to steal loans. There are thousands of dormant shelf companies in Germany that are available on demand. "The funds received from the loans are made to disappear in order to then collapse the companies, analogous to the straw GmbHs in the construction industry," fears Frank.

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Banks are actually obliged to document a great deal of information from their customers. This is the only way they can begin to prevent their accounts from being misused for money laundering, terrorist financing or other crimes. The requirements do not only apply to accounts, of course, but also to lending, because money laundering is also possible here: For example, you can borrow money from the bank and offer a property as security that belongs to the mafia - through straw people. The Corona crisis now also offers a new perfect opportunity for criminals to simply let existing GmbHs go bankrupt, says Mariola Marzouk, an expert in preventing financial crime at BAE Systems Applied Intelligence.

"Know-Your-Customer" (KYC) is the technical term for identifying bank customers. And actually, the supervisors have been demanding ever stricter examinations of the clients in the past few years, because they have often not been able to master the money launderers' new ideas. The Danish Danske Bank, for example, has barely controlled the business in its Estonian branch for many years. This led to the largest known money laundering case in history: criminals smuggled black money with a volume of around 240 billion euros through Danske Bank into the European Union. The EU is now planning a central money laundering supervision and uniform rules in all EU member states. The - albeit temporary - softening of the KYC rules by politicians and financial regulators is now counteracting these efforts.

The mafia can lure small businesses with loans

Another danger posed by the corona crisis is the increasing infiltration of the economy by organized crime. In Italy, the responsible public prosecutors have already warned that the mafia could give tight companies expensive loans to survive and thus take control there. That could also happen in Germany, it is said in police circles. "In situations in which households and small businesses suddenly lack important money, the mafia steps in with their black money," warns an investigator who wants to remain anonymous.

Young companies and start-ups, who are currently finding it difficult to obtain bank loans, are also at risk of accepting such funds. The EU police authority Europol has also warned of an increase in crime in its current Corona report. For some time now, cybercrime attacks have been observed that would paralyze important countries' infrastructures. In the Czech Republic, for example, the IT of a hospital had to be shut down after such an attack. In addition, criminals would hijack the identities of other people and companies in order to get aid loans or to carry out stealth deals. Customers would be tempted, for example, to order medical products on the Internet and pay in advance without the goods ever being delivered.