A new report from BuzzFeed claims that the FBI is investigating a series of money transfers made from the Russian foreign ministry to its embassies that were designated specifically "to finance election campaign of 2016".
The transactions moved between Citibank accounts in nearly 60 countries and totaled $380,000.
There are a total of 60 separate money transfers that are being scrutinized by the FBI, BuzzFeed reports, including one that was sent from the foreign ministry to the Russian embassy in Washington DC in early August 2016, just before the start of the final leg of the presidential campaign. The bank ultimately found dozens of transfers with similar memo lines sent to countries ranging from Afghanistan to Nigeria.
Of note: at least one of the transfers into the U.S. came from VTB Bank, "a financial institution that is majority-owned by the Kremlin" that was placed under sanction by the U.S. Treasury Department in 2014 after Russia's annexation of Crimea.
"How could we not investigate a suspicious financial transaction that contained a memo that said, 'finance election campaign 2016?' Given the climate and what was in that memo line it would be very irresponsible for us not to investigate".
BuzzFeed points out that seven countries held elections in 2016, including Russia for the lower house of parliament, and Russian embassies operated polling stations for citizens living overseas.
A Citibank review has turned up dozens of similar transactions, BuzzFeed reported, all of which are suspicious in that the bank's compliance officers have been "unable to determine the financial, business, or legal goal of the transactions". Each transaction is reported to have come from the Russian foreign ministrybefore making its way to Russian embassies in countries throughout the globe.
"We had an election and the intelligence community concluded Russian Federation interfered in it", the agent told BuzzFeed. "It's a good lead". The Senate Intelligence Committee committee asked FinCEN for "any actions" the agency took to support investigations of individuals and businesses with ties to Russian Federation, any documents it sent to the FBI, and any requests for information it sent to banks.