The Financial Crimes Enforcement Network plans to enhance information-sharing with international and local law enforcement agencies on transactions potentially involved in money laundering, an official told senators Thursday.

In remarks prepared for a Senate committee hearing on how top African politicians and their families had evaded anti-money-laundering laws to bring hundreds of millions of dollars into the country, James Freis, Fincen's director, said the agency is pursuing a number of steps to beef up enforcement.

"As we continue to focus on executing our strategy, we must increase global public awareness of the threat posed by foreign corruption so that our efforts to combat this threat become a priority for all nations," Freis said.

Describing large-scale corruption by foreign officials as a threat to the U.S. and the foreign countries involved, he said Fincen is proposing giving certain foreign law enforcement agencies, as well as state and local agencies in the U.S., the ability to obtain information on bank accounts in anti-money-laundering investigations.

Committee Chairman Carl Levin, D-Mich., said in opening remarks that the report shows that "a lot more can be done to combat foreign corruption."

He reiterated the bipartisan recommendations in the report for the Treasury Department to repeal all exemptions from the Patriot Act's anti-money-laundering requirements — including that for real estate and escrow agents — and to require greater disclosure of attorney-client bank accounts.

Freis said Fincen is developing a proposal to expand the restrictions to the nonbank mortgage industry.

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