- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 3, 2007

The Bush administration yesterday outlined a series of steps ranging from increased cooperation with other countries to monitoring American Indian casinos as part of its effort to dismantle money-laundering and terrorist-financing networks.

The strategy, announced by the Treasury, Justice and Homeland Security departments, will “greatly assist in efforts to seize and forfeit millions in illegal proceeds that flow through the international financial system,” according to Assistant Attorney General Alice S. Fisher of the Justice Department’s criminal division.

The strategy is aimed at maintaining the safety of the U.S. banking system, increasing transparency in other financial-services businesses, such as check cashers or currency exchanges, and stemming the smuggling of cash to foreign financial institutions from which the money is sometimes wired or transported back into the United States.

“The smuggling of bulk currency out of the United States is the largest and most significant drug-money-laundering threat facing law enforcement,” according to the document.

Other steps include measures aimed at money-laundering schemes that are based on trade, such as the Black Market Peso Exchange, described in a report last year as the “largest known money-laundering system in the Western Hemisphere, responsible for moving an estimated $5 billion worth of drug proceeds per year from the United States back to Colombia.”

The scheme allows drug traffickers to launder money by selling dollars to money brokers, who then sell them to Colombian businesses, which use them to buy U.S. products, which are imported to Colombia or elsewhere.

The strategy boosts efforts against money laundering by promoting transparency in the ownership of companies and other business organizations, enforcing regulations for the insurance industry, supporting international efforts and examining anti-money-laundering enforcement in casinos.

The administration also is targeting American Indian casinos, which have been driving the growth of the high-volume, cash-intensive industry.

“A number of money-laundering schemes using casinos have been reported by foreign and domestic law enforcement,” the strategy said.

Other steps include efforts to shut off access to U.S. banks by the Black Market Peso Exchange, improve information sharing between the financial-services industry and law enforcement, increase enforcement along the southwest border, expand an enforcement task force in northern border locations and develop guidance for financial institutions at risk of providing financial services to shell companies.

Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee Chairman Christopher J. Dodd, Connecticut Democrat, said in response to the strategy that the U.S. “must continue to be aggressive in its anti-money-laundering efforts, to track down and stop terrorist financing and criminal activities.”

“It is critically important that federal agencies hone their intelligence capabilities and enhance their coordination to protect our national security and our economy,” he said.

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