International cooperation against money laundering is starting to pay off, a top U.S. official said Tuesday.
In one case still under investigation, a European bank that detected unusual wire transfer activity contacted its government's financial intelligence unit, which in turn notified the U.S. Treasury Department's Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, or Fincen.
Fincen's agents discovered that the U.S. citizen wiring millions of dollars into the foreign bank was being investigated separately by two U.S. agencies. Fincen persuaded the agencies, two domestic and one foreign, to exchange information, and helped all three by sharing data drawn from its own data bases.
"Transnational criminals have no concerns for borders. They reach out to their perceived partners with no bureaucratic impediments," said William F. Baity, Fincen's acting director. "We're learning to operate in the same mode."
Mr. Baity's comments came in a speech to the American Bankers Association's annual money laundering conference here. He assumed the agency's top position in February, when Stanley E. Morris retired.
International cooperation on money laundering barely existed a few years ago, Mr. Baity said. In 1991, only four nations worldwide had agencies comparable to Fincen.
Today there are 38 such agencies, with 25 more being created.
A key source of cooperation, he said, is the Financial Action Task Force, a group convened in 1989 by the Group of Seven industrialized nations. The task force encourages-and in some cases pressures-nations to criminalize money laundering and implement the so-called "FATF 40," a set of 40 suggestions that serve as a model for enforcement programs.
Amy G. Rudnick, a partner at the Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher law firm here and a former Treasury Department official, said cooperation between governments is particularly important given the growing presence of U.S. banks abroad.
But the proliferation of anti-money-laundering regulations abroad often means that foreign branches of U.S. banks must abide two sets of laws.