U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, speaks with U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif.

WASHINGTON – The Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday passed bipartisan legislation led by U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, modernizing and strengthening criminal laws against money laundering – a critical source of funding for terrorist organizations, drug cartels, and other organized crime syndicates.

The Combating Money Laundering, Terrorist Financing, and Counterfeiting Act of 2019 (S.1883) updates criminal money laundering and counterfeiting statutes and promotes transparency in the U.S. financial system. It is co-sponsored by Ranking Member Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and U.S. Senators John Cornyn, R-Texas, Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., and Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., and passed in the committee by a vote of 18-4.

“Terrorist organizations, drug cartels and other criminals actively seek to upend our American way of life, and often turn a profit off of the pain and suffering they cause. Targeting the illicit flow of money is critical to disrupting criminal organizations and reducing incentives for this behavior. This bill hits criminals in their pocketbooks by updating the money laundering laws for the 21st Century,” Grassley said.

Money laundering is a common practice used by terrorist organizations, transnational drug cartels, and other criminals to disguise profits from or financing for illicit activity. While calculating the exact scale of worldwide money laundering is impossible, estimates suggest the annual sum to be in the trillions of dollars. Perpetrators use a variety of methods to conceal and move funds across borders and through the global financial system in an effort to evade law enforcement. These techniques include longstanding unofficial money transferring systems, such as hawalas, and more modern tools, like digital currencies.

The senators’ legislation modernizes criminal money laundering laws, updates counterfeiting statutes to prohibit state of the art counterfeiting methods and enhances tools to crack down on smugglers and tax cheats. The Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing on beneficial ownership and reforms to combat money laundering in June. In 2017, then-Chairman Grassley held a hearing on strengthening money laundering laws and discussed multiple provisions of this bill.

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