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Global banks to make wire transfers easier to track

A worker inspects U.S. dollar bills inside a money changer in a file photo. Major global banks and the association that clears their payments said on Thursday they will take steps to make it easier to track international wire transfers as the U.S. Treasury Department wants them to do. REUTERS/Romeo Ranoco

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Major global banks and the association that clears their payments said on Thursday they will take steps to make it easier to track international wire transfers as the U.S. Treasury Department wants them to do.

The Wolfsberg Group, which represents 12 major global banks and the Clearing House Association, said they were doing so “to promote the effectiveness of global anti-money laundering and anti-terrorist financing programs.”

U.S. Treasury Under Secretary Stuart Levey, who has led a campaign to encourage banks to do more to track payments so that terror groups and criminals are more easily detected if they use wire transfers, said it was a welcome action.

It will help keep the financial system “safe, sound and secure from abuse,” Levey said. The Treasury has been working with the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunications, or SWIFT, the bank cooperative that will develop a new payment message format.

Disclosure last year that the U.S. Treasury began issuing subpoenas after the September 11, 2001, attacks to SWIFT to force the European-based organization to open its databases to U.S. agents caused outrage in Europe.

A press release from the Clearing House Association said the new message format “would include more detailed information about those conducting wire transfers in certain instances” without providing any detail.

The Wolfsberg Group includes ABN AMRO, Banco Santander Central Hispano, Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UJF, Barclays, Citigroup, Credit Suisse, Deutsche Bank, Goldman Sachs, HSBC, JPMorgan Chase, Societe Generale and UBS.

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