A new report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) describes what is known about the money laundering strategies of transnational criminal organizations and terrorists and information-sharing efforts among federal agencies to combat trafficking.
Federal agencies and others have reported that money laundering strategies used by transnational criminal organizations and terrorist groups include sophisticated techniques such as phony trade transactions or purchase and resale of real estate or art. Such techniques can involve the services of professional money laundering networks or service providers in legitimate professions, such as complicit lawyers or accountants. For example, lawyers or accountants can create shell companies (entities with no business operations) to help criminals launder illicit proceeds. Transnational criminal organizations and terrorist groups also continue to smuggle cash in bulk or transmit money electronically across borders.
Federal efforts to combat trafficking and money laundering incorporate multiple collaborative and information-sharing mechanisms and include the private sector.
- Law enforcement agencies collaborate through task forces in which they share information and analytical resources to aid in the investigation and prosecution of drug and other trafficking-related crimes.
- Federal agencies share intelligence with foreign counterparts. For example, the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN), a bureau of the Department of the Treasury, shares information with more than 160 international financial intelligence agencies.
- FinCEN collaborates with law enforcement agencies to share information with financial institutions on “red flags” for trafficking, which institutions can use to identify and report suspicious transactions.
- FinCEN also coordinates a voluntary program that allows financial institutions to share information with one another to better identify and report suspicious activities that may be related to money laundering or other illicit financing.
GAO says these mechanisms help address some of the challenges involved in combatting trafficking and money laundering, which include the increasingly sophisticated strategies of criminal and terrorist groups and the fragmentation of responsibility for anti-trafficking efforts among many federal agencies.