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‘Dirty’ Money Enforcement Blitz in FL

Posted Aug 8, 2007 12:08 PM CDT
By Martha Neil

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So-called dirty money is big business in Florida. And that means the state is a magnet for enforcement of federal laws banning banks from participating in money-laundering and similar schemes.

''On a proportional basis, [given] the number of institutions that Miami has, South Florida leads the country in Bank Secrecy Act and anti-money laundering violations,'' Charles Intriago tells the Miami Herald. He is the publisher of Money Laundering Alert, a Miami-based newsletter.

The enforcement-oriented climate in Florida was emphasized this week by news of a record-breaking $65 million in sanctions imposed this week on American Express Bank International, a Miami-based institution, by federal regulators. It is the 19th South Florida financial institution to be targeted for such enforcement since 2004, according to the Herald.

But "overall, the banks have done a good job" in attempting to stay out of the dirty money fray, says Al Avila, a Miami banking lawyer. He attributes the high number of bank sanctions to stringent enforcement by regulators. ''In the past, they probably would have been somewhat more lenient and flexible,'' he says.

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