An investigation of a high-risk geographical location can sometimes uncover assets which have been hidden through: nominees; shell companies; cash couriers; wire transfers; credit cards; informal banking systems, etc.  For example, one way the IRS focuses on high-risk locations like tax havens, is to compare the banking information it receives from the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network with the foreign bank disclosure taxpayers make pursuant to their Form 90-22.1, the Foreign Bank and Financial Account Report.  The IRS also makes U.S. residents with offshore credit / debit cards an audit priority pursuant to its Offshore Credit Card Program.

The State Department is similarly concerned with high-risk offshore locations as demonstrated by part of its International Narcotics Control Strategy Report, Major Money Laundering Countries.  U.S. banks too make geographic location a risk factor in their anti-money laundering programs.  As explained at page 25 of the Bank Secrecy Act / Anti-Money Laundering Examination Manual: “U.S. banks should understand and evaluate the specific risks associated with doing business in, opening accounts for customers from, or facilitating transactions involving certain geographic locations.

The Financial Crimes Enforcement Network also deems seven U.S. regions to be High Intensity Financial Crimes Areas because of their extraordinary vulnerability to money laundering.  Law enforcement may even commit additional resources to scrutinize financial transactions in such regions or in a High-Intensity Drug Trafficking Area.  As my post “Domestic Shell Companies & An Asset Search” further suggests, jurisdictions like Delaware, Nevada, Wyoming, and Oregon are additionally considered to be high-risk because assets are so easily concealed through shell companies formed there.

The isolated fact that a financial transaction has a nexus to a high-risk location does not however necessarily support the conclusion that assets have been concealed.  A judgment debtor, divorcing spouse, etc. should still be thoroughly investigated to ensure that an offshore or domestic high-risk location has not been used to hide assets.

(Last Edited August 22, 2010)

Copyright 2007-2010 Fred L. Abrams