US senator Bill Cassidy has asked the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to review and evaluate the federal government’s efforts to end and prevent trade-based money laundering (TBML).

Cassidy, a Republican who sits on the US Senate Finance Committee, sees TBML as one of the main methods by which drug traffickers, criminal organisations and terrorist financiers use legitimate trades to disguise illegally obtained proceeds.

Bipartisan agreement

Cassidy, along with Democratic senator Sheldon Whitehouse who serves on the US Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime and Terrorism, have jointly presented a case to show how TBML has contributed significantly to the ongoing opioid crisis.

“For example, the US Treasury Department recently announced sanctions on five Chinese nationals involved in a trade-based money laundering scheme to traffic fentanyl and other synthetic opioids into the United States and launder the proceeds,” the senators wrote in a 13 July letter sent to GAO seeking the government watchdog’s review.

Agency coordination needed

“In our modern economy, there are more opportunities for criminal organisations to launder the proceeds of their illicit activities than ever before,” the lawmakers wrote.

The senators want a GAO review to improve coordination and communication between federal agencies fighting TBML, including the treasury department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network.