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US Launches Effort to Block Terrorist Fundraising - 2001-09-20

U.S. Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill told the Senate Banking Committee Wednesday the United States has set up a special team to disrupt terrorist fundraising activity around the world.

Mr. O'Neill said the U.S. Treasury Department, working through both national and international intelligence sources, has compiled a list of global terrorists and the groups that help them raise money.

The U.S. Treasury Secretary said the effort has broad international support. "We, for the first time will systematically use all the information assets that are at the disposal not only of our government, but cooperating governments around the world to begin a closing down of bank accounts asking other governments to block bank accounts where there is enough evidence, to do it quickly, and to confiscate amounts that are in these accounts," the secretary said.

The Treasury effort coincides with a general international move to restrict bank secrecy.

Caroline Atkinson, an analyst with the Council on Foreign Relations in New York, says even before the recent terrorist attacks, banks had begun viewing depositors more cautiously. "People have been increasingly concerned about the use of legitimate financial institutions for illegitimate means, in the case of drugs for example, and also criminal activities more generally," she said. "I think there has been a growing awareness among the major financial institutions that actually it is ultimately bad for their bottom line to be lax about checking up on their customers."

Mr. O'Neill says the Treasury Department's effort to block terrorist bank accounts will begin immediately.