RealNews

U.S. Cautiously Begins to Seize Millions in Foreign Banks

The Justice Department has begun using its expanded counterterrorism powers to seize millions of dollars from foreign banks that do business in the United States, creating tensions with the State Department and some allies. Law enforcement officials say the tool has proven invaluable in seizing ill-gotten money that criminals hide overseas and that was once out of the government’s reach. Under the counterterrorism measures approved by Congress after the Sept. 11 attacks, prosecutors are not even required to trace the money back to the target of an investigation. Officials at the State Department, however, have raised concerns over the practice — in part because most of the seizures have involved fraud and money-laundering investigations that are unrelated to terrorism. State Department officials worry “that this might be seen by other countries as arbitrary or trying to extra-territorially impose our laws” under the guise of fighting terrorism, said a Bush administration official who demanded anonymity. Diplomats from several nations, including Switzerland, have voiced private objections, officials said. Full Story

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