WASHINGTON – Decades ago, back then, Sen. Joe Biden established himself as a kind of drug czar on Capitol Hill. In the 1980s, he helped start the Office of National Drug Control Policy. And a decade later, Biden became one of the masterminds of Plan Colombia, a $ 7.5 billion bilateral program that focused, among other things, on combating drug trafficking in America.
While he was running for president, he was vowed To “enforce sanctions against international actors involved in illicit drug trafficking,” Congress gave him a stricter anti-money laundering law that could help achieve this goal.
With the advent of new technology, drug traffickers increasingly rely on sophisticated trade-based systems and digital transactions that are harder to track.
The US is often viewed as an ideal place for human traffickers to launder their profits. Around 300 billion US dollars of dirty money is laundered in the country every year the finance department. At least a third is related to illicit drug revenues, primarily linked to Colombian and Mexican cartels. Human trafficking, smuggling and fraud are also reportedly cash-intensive sources of illicit income in the United States the FBI.
To counteract this, the Senate issued the on January 1, with bipartisan support Anti-Money Laundering Act, the first important law on this subject passed since 2004 and Experts say It is one of the most momentous in decades. It establishes new reporting requirements for banks and other financial institutions, extends the rewards and protection of whistleblowers, and sets penalties for organizations that “repeatedly and outrageously” fail to cooperate with the government.
Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said It gave her department a mandate to “renew the framework for combating illegal funding”.
“This frame was designed in the 1970s and has been pretty much the same ever since,” added Yellen. “The update couldn’t have come at a better time.”
Despite the new legislation, the US government and other nations still have a long way to go to successfully combat money laundering. Only around 0.2% of the revenue laundered through the financial system from crime, including drug trafficking, is seized or frozen. the UN found.
Peter Reuter, co-author of Chasing Dirty Money, said nowhere in the world are there “good estimates of the state of money laundering”.
“Nobody has developed a method that is believable,” said Reuter, professor of criminology at the University of Maryland. “It’s hundreds of billions. My inclination is to say that it is probably on the high end and there is no basis to estimate how much or, more importantly, whether it is going up or down. “
A Global Financial Integrity Report However, commissioned by Congress and published in September, the estimated value of drug trafficking in the Western Hemisphere alone is between $ 64 billion and $ 151 billion a year. Of that, between $ 42.3 billion and $ 121.6 billion is accounted for by illicit drug-related financial flows – that is, any amount illegally earned, transferred across borders, or used – which the report said the US, Mexico and Colombia concerns.
The study concluded that the anti-money laundering framework “has not been adequately exploited in current US and regional drug control efforts and needs to be re-prioritized”. It also highlighted the importance of working with the governments of Colombia and Mexico, the countries that are the two main suppliers of illicit drugs to America.
Julia Yansura, one of the authors of the report, said the study offers “a definite path for the Biden government to move towards a more humane narcotics approach.”
“I think they will go the way,” said Yansura, GFI’s Latin America and Caribbean program manager. “It’s not exactly easy to figure out, and it’s a hemispheric discussion. You speak of roughly 33 countries and many other jurisdictions involved. … It will also depend on the countries in the region and their willingness to do so. “
In addition to changes to domestic financial regulations, the Biden government recently highlighted the importance of strengthening international cooperation to combat drug-related money laundering. On March 2, the State Department submitted its to Congress International Report on the Strategy to Combat Drugs on money laundering, which states, “The United States looks forward to continuing to work with international partners to advance this important agenda.”
Regarding Colombia, whose administration was close to the Trump administration, the report said the State Department will continue to “provide training and technical assistance for Colombian judicial actors to make informed decisions in complex cases (anti-money laundering).”
The report expressed concern about Mexico, where “illegal actors launder billions of dollars in drug trafficking revenues”. Following the country’s decision not to prosecute a former defense minister for who it was Detained in the US in October for drug trafficking and money laundering and later was extradited to his home countryThe report concluded that “the lack of money laundering convictions is representative of Mexico’s limited ability to prosecute crimes in general”.
Yansura noted that “another important part of that conversation should be what the US should be doing domestically about drug policy.”
“Drugs are clearly a question of supply and demand,” said Yansura. “It doesn’t make sense to look at supply without considering the US side and the demand side. When thinking about political solutions, it is very important to also think about US domestic drug policy. “
The White House and Treasury Department have not responded to US TODAY requests for a statement on anti-money laundering policies under the Biden administration.