Smart cards, electronic money, and other new technologies could hinder the fight against international money laundering, a top Treasury official said.
Speaking at a meeting Tuesday of the Financial Action Task Force, Deputy Treasury Secretary Lawrence H. Summers said the United States and other countries must adapt their anti-laundering rules to account for these new products.
"Countries have to modernize their approach to money laundering because of the rapid growth of technology," Mr. Summers said. "We have to ensure that these products don't erode the progress that we've already made."
But how that will be done remains to be seen. Mr. Summers instructed the group, made up of government officials from 26 countries, to discuss the technologies in depth at their meeting, which runs through Friday.
Afterward, the group will release nonbinding guidelines for countries devising anti-laundering programs. Suggestions for dealing with smart cards and other new products must be included, Mr. Summers said.
These draft rules are the key to combating money laundering, he said. A single set of international laws, including mandatory reporting of suspect transactions, would prevent criminals from abusing loopholes in any one country, he said.
"There will never be enough time or people to track down every crime," Mr. Summers said. "What's needed is a culture of compliance. By following these recommendations, we can lower the likelihood of these crimes being successful."
The risk posed by the new products is substantial. Smart cards allow huge amounts of money to be carried on a single card. Electronic money is risky because encryption codes - series of letters or numbers used to protect a funds transfer - could be broken by computer hackers and then used by criminals to make their fund transfers appear legitimate.
Stanley E. Morris, director of the Treasury Department's Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, said his agency has long struggled to address these problems through its upcoming know-your-customer rules. These rules, in the works for two years, are expected to be issued this fall.