April 12, 2007, - 12:10 pm
By Debbie Schlussel
For those who attack the Patriot Act on the left and the libertarian right, I would hope the one part of the law with which they have no quibble is the portion requiring financial institutions, investment houses, etc. to file Suspicious Activity Reports (SARs) based on suspicious transactions, such as those reaching a certain federally-mandated threshold amount and other red flags.
SARs are one of the best clues available to federal law enforcement, regarding terrorist financing. Unfortunately, while many financial institutions have skilled investigators who compile the SARs–including detailed reports of their investigations of suspicious transactions–federal agencies, like the FBI, ICE, and others don’t look closely at the reports. In fact, most of the time, federal agents ignore the SARs, which could tell them a lot. Instead of examining this gold mine, they’re busy having breaking pita with the local flying imam.
But, today, the story is different for Park Financial Group, Inc. of Winter Park, Florida and its principal, Gordon Cantley. The Securities and Exchange Commission filed it’s first Patriot Act case against the two, yesterday. Yup, this wasn’t an FBI or ICE case, though it should have been. Those agencies are too busy pandering to Islamists, apparently.
The SEC says that Cantley and his company executed numerous trades in securities through British Virgin Island accounts, despite obvious red flags, and failed to file SARs with the feds.
Filing SARs–especially when large amounts of money are being transferred overseas beyond the reach of U.S. authorities–is very important to combat money-laundering activities. As I wrote earlier this year, two former IRS agents showed how easy it is to open overseas companies and transfer money there through a series of shell companies here in the U.S. It’s a loophole that hasn’t been closed–or even tightened–since 9/11.
While we don’t know exactly why Park Financial Group, Inc. violated the Patriot Act and failed to report transactions to the feds, that’s the problem. We don’t know where the money went from there. Although it’s unlikely that the money went to fund terrorism, who knows? While Park is being prosecuted, many other companies fall beyond the radar. The SEC staff is only so big, and focuses primarily on many other issues (like insider trading and fraudulent filings).
Time for ICE and the FBI to pay closer attention to the millions of Suspicious Activity Reports filed by financial institutions around the U.S. on a regular basis.
A lot of important information regarding terrorist money laundering is falling through the cracks.
Tags: Debbie Schlussel, Federal Bureau of Investigation, federal law enforcement, Florida, Gordon Cantley, Internal Revenue Service, Park Financial Group Inc., principal, Securities and Exchange Commission, United States, Virgin Island, Winter Park