Two years after Congress instructed the Treasury Department to negotiate agreements to hinder money laundering abroad, only one such pact has been signed, and the report on the remaining talks has been classified, the department confirmed yesterday.
A Treasury Department official said it had begun negotiations with 18 countries but had signed a pact only with Venezuela, three weeks ago. Such talks take time, the official said, and disclosing the names of the other nations "would not be beneficial to the negotiating process."
The 1988 Anti-Drug Abuse Act instructs the Treasury Department to negotiate agreements in which foreign countries known to be money-laundering centers would agree to force banks to keep records of cash transactions of $10,000 or more. The foreign governments would also agree to turn over those records upon request to U.S. investigators in any narcotics-related case.
Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) of the Senate Banking Committee who sponsored the amendment yesterday cited the lack of progress as evidence of the Bush administration's refusal "to make the tough choices needed to fight a real war on drugs." He sharply criticized the decision to classify the report.
"The countries which the Treasury Department has targeted are obvious. By and large they're the ones that have strict bank secrecy," Kerry said. Federal officials in the past have identified Panama, Switzerland, Luxembourg, the Cayman Islands and the Bahamas as such nations.
"The classification is typical of the way in which this administration does business. Any time they have a policy failure, they classify it so that the American people won't find out."