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US Steps Up Effort Against Money Laundering

The U.S. Treasury Department Wednesday released a money laundering threat assessment, which concludes that while progress is being made in cracking down on the problem, more needs to be done.

The report says a vast amount of so-called dirty money is circulating through the United States. Money laundering refers to the process of getting criminally obtained cash into legitimate financial institutions.

Federal Reserve Board governor Susan Bies says a major achievement of the past year is heightened coordination of anti-money laundering efforts among various U.S. government entities. "We have to focus not just on the process, but whether that process is effective in identifying leads to law enforcement around money laundering," he said.

The threat assessment was undertaken by various U.S. government agencies and the private sector financial services industry. Another member of the panel, Justice Department criminal division chief Alice Fisher stresses the importance of international cooperation. "It is only, I think, through international collaboration that we will be able to proceed against emerging safe havens. The process and sanctions that have been imposed in the past have proven to be very productive in this hemisphere, for example, in the Caribbean," he said.

The task force has identified stored value cards as a new technology being used by money launderers. Sometimes called prepaid cards, the stored value cards allow individuals abroad to obtain cash from an automated teller machine and then deposit the stored value in a U.S. financial institution. Odd as it may sound, one of the goals of those who are fighting money-laundering is to get the dirty money into the banking system. Banks, analysts say, are the best place for authorities to be able to examine suspicious transactions.