This November marks the second anniversary of the launch of an important partnership between the United States and Argentina: the Argentina-United States Dialogue on Illicit Finance, or AUDIF. At the inaugural meeting in Buenos Aires in 2016, we joined other high-level officials from our respective finance and justice ministries to identify common threats and vulnerabilities to our financial systems, develop joint strategies, create initiatives to counter these threats and protect our national security.
Illicit finance, and the public corruption it enables and fosters, undermines economic and financial order, destroys the integrity of public institutions, and puts our citizens at greater risk of harm. Combating this threat requires both high-level political commitment and close collaboration between like-minded jurisdictions committed to working together. In the two years since that first meeting, the United States and Argentina, the institutions we represent, the hardworking teams on both sides and the two of us personally, have become true partners on this front, something perhaps unimaginable just five years ago.
We have already made much progress. Together we have collaborated on technical assistance to Argentina’s Central Bank and securities regulator. We deployed a fact-finding mission with technical experts to assess the money laundering and terrorist finance threats in the Tri-Border Area between Argentina, Paraguay and Brazil and pave the way for work to combat the problem. We have raised awareness on issues in illicit finance with the private sector and legislative bodies, urging them to take affirmative steps to minimize these threats.
Illicit finance and money laundering are at the root of crimes as diverse as terrorism, corruption, narco-trafficking and human trafficking. Our work together protects not only the integrity of our institutions and the stability of our economies. But beyond that, it ensures the security of our countries and the safety of our citizens from harm. The knowledge that our efforts have such real-life implications is never far from our minds. It keeps our commitment strong and our dialogue clear and frank. Our work has tangible effects on everyday people, including the most vulnerable.
Beyond the close collaboration between our two countries, we also stand united as leaders of the global coalition protecting the international financial system through the Egmont Group of Financial Intelligence Units (FIUs), the operational arm of the global anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism finance regime, and our work as part of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), the world’s leading standard-setting body protecting the global financial system. Indeed, Argentina has just successfully concluded its presidency of the FATF and has transitioned the presidency over to the United States. Our collaborative work in these forums helps us weave a safety net – not just around our financial systems, but also around our countries and citizens.
As important as these policy initiatives and global networks are, it is the one-on-one ground collaborations and joint strategies where our work has immediate impact. So much value comes from simply sharing the right information, and the men and women in both of our organizations do that almost every day. We share information on those who provide financial support to Hezbollah and that helps law enforcement partners investigate and prosecute dangerous networks fueling terrorism. This helps to protect innocent people from these despicable and cowardly acts of violence.
We share information on money-laundering activity stemming from corruption, organized crime and narco-trafficking. We share information on assets stolen by corrupt officials and the wealth derived from or used in the course of these corrupt and criminal acts so that they can be frozen, seized, forfeited and returned to their rightful owners. We are working with other FIUs to confront the threat posed by the despotic Venezuelan regime, whose epic economic mismanagement, public corruption, and human rights violations have created a crisis for its people and neighbors, the extreme horrors of which are seldom seen in our hemisphere.
Our collaboration and future together is a bright one: two great nations leading and working together, both regionally and globally, addressing issues of mutual interest in the financial sector that affect our nations and their people in deep and profound ways. A future where our two great countries help create transparency where in the past darkness protected opaque networks of bad actors from accountability.
It is important for our citizens and the world to know of our close and strategic collaboration in these areas, its profound ramifications and our binding commitment and our relentless pursuit of its success.
Mariano Federici is president of Argentina’s Financial Information Unit. Kenneth A. Blanco is director of the U.S. Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, commonly known as FinCEN.