Agencies need to improve, share money-laundering data

The Treasury Department released the first governmentwide analysis of money laundering and terrorist financing weaknesses that criminals and terrorists exploit through a variety of techniques.

What the analysis determined was that additional data needs to be collected in a more consistent way across agencies to help stem the flow of illicit funds.

The laundering methods include well-established techniques for integrating dirty money into the financial system through banks, as well as innovations that exploit global payment networks through money transmitters, online payment systems, stored-value cards and informal value transfer systems such as unregulated international financing networks called halawas.

Sixteen agencies and bureaus collaborated on the U.S. Money Laundering Threat Assessment, released earlier this month. Besides Treasury, they include the Justice and Homeland Security departments, the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve and the Postal Service.

The analysis revealed that agencies' data is not as developed as it should be, and not collected in a systematic way across government. Over time, agencies have developed tracking systems that are tailored to meet their individual needs and are incompatible with other systems, the report said.

'Accurate, comprehensive data is vitally important if we are to assess whether we are collectively gaining ground, keeping pace or falling behind criminal money launderers,' the report said.

Problems include data fields that are collected by some but not all agencies, differences in definitions and duplications in which more than one agency logged in the same seizure or arrest because they participated in a task force.

Currently, it is not possible to estimate with accuracy the total amount of money laundering activity that federal law enforcement captures.

About the Author

Mary Mosquera is a reporter for Federal Computer Week.

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