Agents from the US Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) and diplomats and
tax and customs officials from Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay, and the United
States are meeting in Buenos Aires, Argentina, beginning May 18, to try to
discover ways to monitor the illegal transfer of funds to other countries.
This activity is classified
as one of the forms of money-launderinga term that covers all attempts
to give a legitimate appearance to illicitly obtained gains.
At the last meeting of
the Mechanism 3+1 group (a reference to the Triple Frontier, plus the United
States), the four countries involved recognized that the border regionsports,
airports, and land bordersbecause they are areas with a large volume
of exchange operations, deserve a more watchful control by the countries'
financial authorities over the flow of goods, people, and funds.
From the perspective of
the four countries, illegal transfers of money could be related to narcotraffic,
money-laundering, and, especially, the financing of terrorism.
A report issued by the
US State Department on April 30 informs that Brazil is cooperating with the
anti-terrorist campaign, but it emphasizes that this cooperation is limited
by the scarcity of funds to combat crime.
Even so, the document
assures that the terrorist threat is low on the triple frontier and excludes
the region from the areas of "fundamental concern" when it comes
to terrorism, despite non-confirmed reports that the Al Qaeda network is present
in these border sites.
During a recent debate
on defense, Ambassador Luiz Felipe de Macedo Soares, general undersecretary
for South America in the Brazilian Ministry of Foreign Relations, said that
he considers it unlikely that Al Qaeda has cells on Brazil's southern borders.
"There is no evidence that proves that terrorists are present in or financed
from that region," he claimed.
In his view, this hypothesis
is based on the presence of communities of Arab descendants in southern Brazil.
"This suspicion is rejected by Brazil, because it disregards the multiethnic
and multicultural reality of the countries on this continent," the Ambassador
In the discussion of money-laundering
and the war on related crimes, Brazil is a model in the control of transfers.
"Nowadays the entire national financial system is monitoring, and banks
are required to inform about dubious transfers," explains Antenor Madruga,
director of the Department for the Recovery of Illegal Assets and International
Judicial Cooperation in the Brazilian Ministry of Justice.
Even with good supervision
of what enters and leaves checking and investment accounts, he indicates that
the area of judicial investigation and conviction could stand improvement.
Therefore, he is betting on the efficacy of the National Qualification and
Training Program to Prevent and Combat Money-Laundering, a project that brings
together 25 government bodies to deal with this issue and has already produced
various seminars since it was created last December.
Madruga explains that
financing terrorism is just one of the government's concerns involving money-laundering.
"In truth, no country is immune to the financing of terror, but we are
also very concerned with crimes that involve corruption," he explains.
According to him, the
fact that the Mercosur countries make it easier for people and goods to flow
between them facilitates the crime of money-laundering. On the other hand,
Madruga indicates the possibility of judicial instruments that can improve
the investigations and convictions.
this month, Brazil and Switzerland signed an agreement to combat money laundering.
Under the agreement, it will be possible to recover money deposited in Swiss
bank accounts by people involved in corruption and fraud in Brazil. The agreement
is the first on juridical cooperation between Switzerland and a South American
According to minister
of Justice, Márcio Thomaz Bastos, it will now be possible to simplify
procedures involving criminal investigations into organized crime activities
and, especially, money laundering. "The agreement means less red tape.
We will be working together, exchanging information with Swiss authorities,"
said the minister, adding that international cooperation is of fundamental
importance in dealing with international criminal activities.
At the moment, Brazil
has juridical cooperation agreements with the United States, Colombia, France,
Italy, Peru, Portugal and South Korea, besides Mercosur member nations.
Last year, the executive
secretary of the Organization of American States' (OAS) Interamerican Anti-Terrorist
Committee, Steven Monblatt, ruled out the possibility of the presence of terrorist
groups acting in the Triple Frontier region between Brazil, Argentina, and
"I am not able to
establish the presence of (terrorist) cells in the sense in which this term
is used. Even the State Department was unable to detect the presence of any
cell," he told the press after a visit to the Itaipu Binational Dam,
last October, in the company of the Brazilian general director of the hydroelectric
plant, Jorge Samek, and the cartoonist Ziraldo Alves Pinto.
Monblatt added that he
doesn't anticipate yet the risk of terrorist acts occurring in the Triple
Frontier region. "When I think of possible terrorists' targets, I don't
think of this region," he underlined. "I think that, here in this
region, you are more concerned about this (the repercussions) than are people
outside here," Monblatt said. "Outside here, these reports have
less impact than they do here," he affirmed.
Monblatt previously held
the post of sub-secretary of anti-terrorism in the US government, and his
statement closed the door on the controversy over presumed accusations that
soiled the international image of the Iguaçu Falls.
After the September 11
terrorist attacks in the United States, there was talk, stimulated by sources
linked to American government intelligence agencies, that the Triple Frontier
was a nest-egg, for example, of terrorist cells connected to Osama Bin Laden's
Foz do Iguaçu and
other cities in the region, which derive most of their income from tourism,
have suffered the consequences of this information.
Monblatt said that what
is most worrisome nowadays in the Triple Frontier is money remittances abroad.
He made a suggestion that the Arab community take certain preventive steps
so that donations to charitable and political organizations in their countries
of origin not end up, even if indirectly, contributing to terrorist activities.
According to him, "trustful
people can end up being used by others for ends that are not very reputable."
For Monblatt, "it is important to verify where this money (from donations)
is going and how it is being used, because, sometimes, people send money to
other countries thinking that they are contributing in good faith on behalf
of some good cause, without knowing that they are contributing to terrorism
or other illicit activities."
The question of money-laundering
is a matter of concern for the international image of the three frontiers,
but, according to Monblatt, the Brazilian government is making a big effort
to combat this type of crime. Nevertheless, he believes that there is a need
to combat this problem through a permanent, joint effort between Brazil, Paraguay,
Milena Galdino works for Agência Brasil (AB), the official press agency
of the Brazilian government. Comments are welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org.
from the Portuguese by David Silberstein.