Electronic money systems must generate transaction records to help law enforcement agencies track money launderers, a senior Justice Department official said last week.
"In a paper environment ... we can get bank records, we can get credit card records," Robert S. Litt, deputy assistant attorney general, said Monday at an antilaundering conference here. "Our goal is only to preserve this ability."
Sophisticated money launderers could use multiple smart cards to create a series of untraceable transactions, Mr. Litt said. To counter this, he recommended that stored-value card issuers maintain records showing when cardholders make purchases or transfers that exceed a designated amount.
Mr. Litt also suggested that electronic commerce systems limit the value that can be stored on a single card or personal computer.
"Few people carry tens of thousands of dollars in cash on their person," he said. "Permitting smart cards of that value greatly increases the opportunity for fraud and money laundering."
Mr. Litt stressed that the Justice Department is not seeking any new legal authority to obtain electronic-transaction records.
"We certainly don't want to create new laws without understanding the effect that they are going to have on this new industry," he said. "But we think there are certain feasible parameters the industry should build into their systems."
The conference was sponsored by the American Bankers Association and the American Bar Association.