WASHINGTON - A Treasury Department official said Monday that the agency plans to issue anti-money-laundering guidelines by yearend that would require banks to take special precautions when executing transactions for senior figures in foreign governments.
"Over the last few years, we have witnessed a series of leaders who have stolen their national patrimony and tried to abscond with the funds through money laundering," Treasury General Counsel Neil Wolin told a District of Columbia Bar Association meeting. "Our goal is to deprive these kleptocrats of access to the international financial markets."
The Clinton administration's national anti-money-laundering strategy, issued in March, requires Treasury to cooperate with the Justice Department and bank regulators to identify types of customers and transactions that "pose a heightened risk of money laundering and other financial crimes" and to develop guidelines to help financial institutions spot them.
Mr. Wolin said that in developing the guidelines, the administration is considering the concerns that they could raise among consumer privacy advocates.
"What we have decided is to focus the enhanced scrutiny on a very targeted, narrow segment of banks' customer base," he said. The guidelines will "strike a balance" between privacy protection and the need to root out financial criminals, he added.
A set of voluntary anti-laundering standards, known as the Wolfsberg Principles, was agreed to by 11 international banks last week. The document commits the banks to additional diligence in dealing with "individuals who have or have had positions of public trust such as government officials, senior executives of government corporations, politicians, important political party officials, etc., and their families and close associates."
Mr. Wolin would not say whether Treasury's planned guidelines will resemble the Wolfsberg Principles.