FILE ID:95120410.LAR




TR120410 (Secretary Rubin chaired Buenos Aires meeting) (670)

By Jaime Lopez Recalde

USIA Special Correspondent

BUENOS AIRES -- Treasury ministers from the hemisphere's 34

democracies, wrapping up a process begun at last year's Summit of the

Americas, have agreed to adopt severe measures to combat money

laundering, including prison sentences and seizure of criminally

obtained assets.

The resolutions were adopted Dec. 2 by a ministerial conference

chaired by U.S. Treasury Secretary Robert E. Rubin and hosted by his

Argentine counterpart, Economics Minister Domingo F. Cavallo. The

meeting was the last in a series of follow-up conferences called for

by the Miami summit.

Following two days of deliberations, a communique issued by the 34

governments agreed to take "all necessary measures" to fight money

laundering, including criminalizing the practice and identifying and

confiscating criminally obtained assets. The ministers also decided to

enact measures for the recording and/or reporting of large currency

transactions, to exchange evidence and information among their

countries, and to break down barriers that impede the exchange of such


They agreed to expand the tools available to law enforcement agencies

to fight money laundering, including the creation of financial

intelligence units similar to the U.S. Treasury's Financial Crimes

Enforcement Network (FinCen), which supports the identification and

prosecution of money laundering and other financial crimes.

Offering the first reaction to the communique, Cavallo told the

closing session that his ministry was organizing a Financial

Intelligence Unit so that all Argentine banks would report

transactions of more than $10,000 in order to control the possible

laundering of money. "We signed a document with U.S. financial

authorities to exchange information," he added.

The ministers also agreed to implement treaties that facilitate the

extradition of criminals and "promote the creation of a national

forfeiture fund to administer forfeited property and authorize its use

or allocation to support the programs of law enforcement authorities,

social programs such as education, crime prevention and health-related

programs, or other purposes to be determined by each government."

In a separate news conference, Rubin warned that money laundering

presents a serious danger for the hemisphere's nascent democracies and

can act as a brake to genuine investment. "If a country is corrupted

by dirty money, the sources of clean money think twice before taking

it there," Rubin said, adding that "money laundering, in addition to

supporting organized crime, can undermine a democracy through the

bribery of officials. It's a lot of money and it moves with the speed

of light through the information systems."

President Clinton, in a message to the ministers, expressed his

satisfaction with the resolutions approved by the conference. "The

communique affirms the commitment made during the December 1994 Summit

of Americans Ministerial in Miami, Florida. During that conference,

with U.S. leadership, a Declaration of Principles, including a

strategy for combating the problem of organized crime and money

laundering, was adopted by the member nations. The communique

specifically directs the member nations to enact laws that make the

laundering of proceeds from drugs and other serious crimes unlawful."

"As I have said many times, America will fight the war on drugs and

crime on all fronts, both at home and abroad," he added.

Argentine Vice President Carlos Ruckauf also expressed his

government's commitment to the international struggle against crime.

In closing the conference, Rubin said, "Today, the nations of this

hemisphere have declared there can be no sanctuary for money

launderers. Today, the nations of this hemisphere are telling

organized crime that we will work together to make it harder for

criminals to legitimize the proceeds of crime."

At his news conference, Rubin presented the new $100 U.S. bill that

will enter circulation next month and gradually replace the older

currency. He said the old ones will not lose their worth, and the new

ones have a design that makes them very difficult to counterfeit.