(Recasts with banks reviewing transactions)
By Brett Wolf
WASHINGTON, Nov 17 (Reuters) - U.S. banks are scouring their transactions for potential ties to suspects in last week’s Paris attacks and government authorities delayed scheduled computer maintenance so they could check a key suspicious-transaction reporting database used by financial institutions, officials said.
Bank transactions reported under U.S. anti-money laundering laws this year have produced a rising number of alerts to potential financial transactions involving the Islamic State militant group, also known as ISIS and ISIL, officials said.
“Some of the best information we have on ISIL facilitation networks ... has come from you,” Gerald Roberts Jr., head of the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Terrorist Financing Operations Section, told anti-money laundering compliance officers at an American Bankers Association conference on Tuesday.
He said banks had begun “scrubbing” their transactions for links to the Paris suspects and were reporting their findings to authorities, but he gave no more details.
Islamic State claimed responsibility for Friday’s coordinated attacks in Paris, in which at least 129 people died.
The U.S. Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN), which maintains the database of millions of reports that financial institutions make under anti-money laundering law and regulation, circulated an email on Friday evening announcing that computer maintenance was being postponed due to the Paris attacks.
The purpose of the maintenance delay was to allow law enforcement officials to “do some work after the attacks,” Sarah Green, head of anti-money laundering policy at the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, said on Monday at the conference.
Green was referring to the FinCEN email, a communication confirmed by a FinCEN spokesman.
FinCEN Director Jennifer Shasky Calvery, speaking with Thomson Reuters on the sidelines of the conference, declined to say if law enforcement officials had uncovered any transactions linked to suspects in the Paris attacks.
She said, however, that the Bank Secrecy Act database had been useful in understanding Islamic State and “foreign terrorist fighters.” She said queries of the data were producing roughly 1,000 alerts each month on possible activity linked to Islamic State, up from 800 in April.
“I can tell you the information being filed by our financial institutions is very helpful,” Shasky Calvery said. (Reporting by Brett Wolf of Thomson Reuters Regulatory Intelligence; Editing by Randall Mikkelsen, Toni Reinhold)