December 16, 2021

Whitehouse, Grassley Call on Treasury to Deploy U.S. Officials with Expertise in Narcotics-Related Finance

Washington, DC – Senators Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and Chuck Grassley (R-IA), the Chairman and Co-Chairman respectively of the Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control, have sent a bipartisan letter to Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen urging the Treasury Department to ensure that its new financial attachés and Foreign Financial Intelligence Unit Liaisons have expertise in narcotics-related finance, in addition to other money laundering issues.

“Drug trafficking organizations (DTOs) perpetuate crime and corruption, which undermines the rule of law, erodes democratic institutions, and threatens U.S. national security,” the senators write. “These criminal groups rely on illicit finance and money laundering to turn their ill-gotten proceeds into legitimate funds that are then used to further their destabilizing operations. Deploying U.S. financial experts to nations that are drug-producing or transit countries will help dismantle DTOs’ financial networks. Eliminating these networks will hinder their capacity to traffic deadly narcotics into the United States.”

Congress created new Treasury attaché and Foreign Financial Intelligence Unit Liaisons programs in last year’s defense authorization bill. These Treasury attachés are U.S. financial experts sent to assist partner nations in strengthening their anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism financing measures. Liaisons will be deployed from the Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) to perform similar functions, using their expertise to engage with international financial security organizations, such as the Financial Action Task Force.

The letter follows a hearing of the Narcotics Control Caucus in November that examined the role and effectiveness of U.S. drug control agencies in addressing corruption associated with the illicit drug trade.

Full text of the senators’ letter is below. A PDF is available here.

December 15, 2021

Janet Yellen

Secretary

U.S. Department of the Treasury

1500 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW

Washington, D.C. 20220

Dear Secretary Yellen:

As you appoint Treasury attachés and Foreign Financial Intelligence Unit Liaisons in major drug-producing or transit countries and major laundering jurisdictions pursuant to 22 U.S.C. 2291h, we urge you to ensure they have expertise in narcotics-related finance, along with other money laundering issues.

Drug trafficking organizations (DTOs) perpetuate crime and corruption, which undermines the rule of law, erodes democratic institutions, and threatens U.S. national security. These criminal groups rely on illicit finance and money laundering to turn their ill-gotten proceeds into legitimate funds that are then used to further their destabilizing operations. Deploying U.S. financial experts to nations that are drug-producing or transit countries will help dismantle DTOs’ financial networks. Eliminating these networks will hinder their capacity to traffic deadly narcotics into the United States.

Sections 6106 and 6108 of the Fiscal Year (FY) 2021 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) authorize Treasury to deploy up to six attachés and six Foreign Financial Intelligence Unit Liaisons to partner nations to combat illicit finance and strengthen anti-money laundering programs. Treasury should direct any attachés and liaisons authorized by these sections of the FY 21 NDAA, who are stationed in countries that are designated as major drug-producing, transit-country, or major money laundering jurisdictions, to address narcotics-related finance in addition to broader money laundering issues. These attachés and liaisons should also consult with the host nation’s counternarcotics officials to better understand the methodologies used by local DTOs, including the most common methods such as bulk cash smuggling and trade-based money laundering. Such personnel should also have experience in developing and implementing programs intended to collect and disseminate beneficial ownership information, as DTOs routinely exploit current law to launder illicit funds.

Thank you for your consideration of this request. We look forward to working with you to dismantle the illicit drug trade, which threatens our shared goals of promoting the rule of law and fighting corruption.

Rich Davidson (Whitehouse), 202-228-6291

Taylor Foy (Grassley), 202-224-6708

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