Combating Transnational Organized Crime

Since the Bureau’s establishment in 1990, FinCEN has played a significant role in the U.S. Government’s efforts to combat transnational organized crime. FinCEN carries out its mission by providing investigative support to law enforcement, intelligence, and regulatory agencies, cooperating globally with counterpart financial intelligence units (FIUs), and using its regulatory authorities to make it more difficult for organized criminal groups to move money through the financial system. FinCEN supports the Department of the Treasury’s efforts to promote the adoption of international standards involving anti-money laundering and the counter-financing of terrorism (AML/CFT), including through the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) where FinCEN led the delegation from 1994 through 1998. The National Security Council identified FinCEN as one of 34 Federal entities that it considered as having a significant role in the fight against international crime as noted in an August 2001 Government Accountability Office report.

FinCEN serves as the FIU of the United States; an FIU is the central agency within a jurisdiction responsible for collecting, analyzing, and disseminating financial information in furtherance of law enforcement investigations and prosecutions. FinCEN revolutionized the international tracking of transnational criminals through data sharing by joining with several other jurisdictions’ FIUs to found the Egmont Group in 1995. At its founding, the Egmont Group focused on the establishment of FIUs. Today’s Egmont Group is concentrating on the operational exchange of information to help law enforcement officials investigate and prosecute transnational organized crime. The important role that FIUs play has been recognized in the United Nations Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime, which recommends that every country establish an FIU.

FinCEN also exercises its authority under Section 311 of the USA PATRIOT Act, which allows for the imposition of special measures for jurisdictions, financial institutions, or international transactions of primary money laundering concern. The section allows for identifying customers using correspondent accounts, including obtaining information comparable to information obtained on domestic customers and prohibiting or imposing conditions on the opening or maintaining in the United States of correspondent or payable-through accounts for a foreign banking institution. Section 311 actions are only used after careful consideration and research. These actions are always well founded and the consequence of egregious financial crime sometimes involving terrorist finance and transnational organized crime. As these actions have shown, Section 311 has proven to have a very significant impact on targeted financial institutions.

FinCEN recognizes that financial crime is a global phenomenon, transcending geographical borders. Partnerships with other nations and international bodies are essential in the detection of criminal proceeds. In the coming decades, FinCEN will continue to work toward achieving greater transparency in the global financial system, combat the ever-evolving nature of transnational organized crime, and raise global awareness of AML/CFT issues.

Additional Resources

  • Prepared Remarks of James H. Freis, Jr., Director Financial Crimes Enforcement Network delivered at the 2011 Anti-Money Laundering and Counter-Terrorism Financing Conference in Sydney, Australia (11/07/2011) HTML | PDF
  • Report from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime: Estimating illicit financial flows resulting from drug trafficking and other transnational organized crimes (October 2011) HTML Only

Key Events in the Fight against Transnational Organized Crime

(2011) White House Announces Transnational Organized Crime Strategy

On July 25, the White House hosted an event to launch the Strategy to Combat Transnational Organized Crime . This strategy seeks to build, balance, and integrate the tools of American power to combat transnational organized crime threats to national and international security. The strategy also seeks to disrupt and dismantle transnational illicit networks and converging threats – and to urge our foreign partners to do the same. 

(2011) Egmont Group Plenary Highlights Ongoing Anti-Corruption Efforts

The 19th annual Egmont Group Plenary included much discussion of global efforts to combat corruption. As stated in its press release “In recent years the Egmont Group has also placed increased emphasis on the fight against corruption. This year’s plenary included further sessions devoted to combating corruption and asset recovery, as well as discussions on the impacts that corruption can have on efforts to establish new FIUs and to effectively carry out the FIU mission. The anti-corruption work of the World Bank, and more recently the FATF, has helped raise awareness of the intrinsic link between corruption and money laundering (e.g., where the proceeds from thefts of public funds are subsequently moved through the financial system). The G-20 also has identified fighting corruption among its current priorities. The Egmont Group of FIUs reaffirmed a commitment, including as specifically foreseen in the United Nations Conference Against Corruption, to fulfill their important role as part of each government’s anti-corruption work, in tracing and identifying possible illicit proceeds, and in facilitating and strengthening the international exchange of information in furtherance of anti-corruption efforts.” 

(2011) FinCEN Identifies LCB as a Financial Institution of Primary Money Laundering Concern

In February, the U.S. Department of the Treasury identified The Lebanese Canadian Bank SAL together with its subsidiaries (LCB) as a financial institution of primary money laundering concern  for the bank’s role in facilitating the money laundering activities of an international narcotics trafficking and money laundering network. FinCEN published a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking  seeking to impose special measures upon LCB. Currently, no final rule has been issued. Treasury is considering how the reported sale of LCB and the disposition of its assets and staff will inform the next steps in the Section 311 process.

(2010) UN Issues Threat Assessment on Transnational Organized Crime.

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime released The Globalization of Crime: A Transnational Organized Crime Threat Assessment , which analyzed a range of key transnational crime threats, including human trafficking; migrant smuggling; the illicit heroin and cocaine trades; cybercrime; and maritime piracy and trafficking in environmental resources, firearms, and counterfeit goods. In 2011, the Egmont Group agreed to further pursue this initiative against transnational organized crime.

(2010) International Mass-Marketing Fraud Working Group Releases Threat Assessment

The International Mass-Marketing Fraud Working Group released a threat assessment on international mass-marketing fraud. The assessment was developed in collaboration with the Department of Justice, as well as law enforcement, regulatory, and consumer agencies in Australia, Belgium, Canada, EUROPOL, the Netherlands, Nigeria, and the United Kingdom, to provide governments and the public with a current assessment of the nature and scope of the threat that mass-marketing fraud poses around the world. FinCEN researched its data to identify the extent of SAR reporting relating to mass-marketing fraud. 

(2008) Director Freis Discusses Fighting Transnational Crime through Financial Intelligence

FinCEN Director Freis addressed a conference of the Committee on International Monetary Law of the International Law Association  (MOCOMILA) in Salamanca, Spain where he discussed fighting transnational crime through financial intelligence.

(2000) UN Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime Urges Countries to Create an FIU

The United Nations Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime (Palermo Convention ) of 2000 adopted the Egmont Group’s definition of an FIU. It urged countries to combat money laundering and consider creating an FIU to serve as a central point for the collection, analysis, and dissemination of information regarding possible money laundering. (The Convention entered into force on September 29, 2003.)