- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 11, 2001

The two top members of the Senate Finance Committee yesterday questioned whether the U.S. Customs Service was enforcing money-laundering laws in the wake of information that the Sept. 11 terrorists used a "pervasive and sophisticated financial network that relied heavily on the use of cash."
Sens. Max Baucus, Montana Democrat and chairman, and Charles E. Grassley of Iowa, ranking Republican, said in a letter yesterday to the agency that they wanted to know how the Customs Service traced the movement of large sums of cash in and out of the country and what efforts it was making to interdict illegal money transactions.
"The grave acts of terrorism of Sept. 11 and continued threats of terrorism committed by foreign terrorists pose an extraordinary threat to our national security," they said. "Preliminary reports regarding the terrorist attacks indicate the perpetrators and their accomplices were supported by a pervasive and sophisticated financial network that relied heavily on the use of cash."
Mr. Baucus and Mr. Grassley noted that some of the 19 men who hijacked four commercial jetliners paid cash for their flight school instruction, airline tickets and other expenses, and that several of the suspected accomplices detained by federal authorities had carried bags that also contained large amounts of cash or cashier's checks.
They said federal authorities are investigating whether, in at least two instances, more than $10,000 in cash destined for the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon was carried through customs checkpoints and reported to authorities as required by law.
The Customs Service is charged with protecting the nation's borders, a job that includes the flow of money. Agency spokesman Dennis Murphy did not return calls to his office for comment.
There is no legal limit on the total amount of currency or other monetary instruments that may be brought into or taken out of the United States.
However, anyone who transports, mails or ships more than $10,000 to any foreign country or into the United States must file a report with the Customs Service.
Undeclared currency in excess of $10,000 is subject to seizure.
"We are interested in learning about how customs and other law enforcement agencies use information relating to the movement of currency as reported on federal forms, how customs interdicts illicit proceeds, and whether reporting requirements have been helpful to customs and other law enforcement agencies in tracking down suspected terrorists connected with the Sept. 11 attacks," the senators said.
They asked the agency to describe its enforcement strategies to combat money laundering and whether the Customs Service shares any information from the required forms with other federal agencies.

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