Offshore accounts - why are wire transfers to them permitted?

Here we have in the news a string of extortions agains chain stores in New England, where somebody calls up and demands money be sent to an off shore account or the store will be blown up. The money is paid. Presumably the felon can’t be traced because that country doesn’t require cooperating with our police.
So why do we allow such money laundering transfers?
Can’t we just stop the flow by controlling our own banks, which would quickly end the practice?

What do you mean by controlling our banks? American financial institutions are already subject to a staggering array of controls, requirements and limitations.

International bank wires, in particular, are subject to control by OFAC - the Office of Foreign Assets Control. There’s a long list of countries, regions and known individuals and organizations that we’re forbidden from doing business with.

What you’re describing is not money laundering - it’s terrorism or extortion. Money laundering is the hiding and moving of funds so as to conceal its original illegal source. A very basic example might be: Alice sells illegal drugs and is paid entirely in quarters. She takes the quarters to Bob, who runs a laundromat, and dumps the illegally-obtained quarters in with the legitamately-acquired quarters from the washing machines and takes them to his bank, where they’re counted and deposited into his account. Bob then gives “clean” money to Alice.

Yeah, but isn’t it funny how someone can call a store, threaten them, say “send money to X”, and it happens.

Some “staggering array” of controls.

I have an idea. Let’s make a law against robbery.

The idea is the same as kidnapping with extortion. A stipulation in the threat is that if the authorities get tipped off, very bad things will happen. That is all there is to it. Offshore accounts aren’t 100% shady and there are plenty of reasons someone might need to transfer money internationally.

How is this the banks’ fault? Or the fault of banking regulations? I’m missing something here…

Yes. You seem to be ignoring the question. As did gotpasswords.

If you have an anti-government agenda, then there is really nothing you can do.
However, there are countries that banks are not banned from doing business with that are helping US criminals.

Say it’s Bimini (I forget if they are one of the problem countries, but let’s just say they are) Then we can be friendly with them and support communications and tourism in both directions. But at the same time we could require that transfers to their banks only be done if they agree to cooperate tracing monetary crimes.
They are in no position to argue, as they need legit American deposits to fund their banks.

I guess Bimini is a district of the Bahamas. So say Bahamas. Nice place, on good terms with us. They can have any banking rules they want, and if they want a particular bank to receive tranfers or keep secret accounts, that’s entirely up to them. But the transfer, coming from US banks, can still be controlled without their permission.

So you are going to punish the legitimate banks and users of money transfers, because a couple of criminals use the same service? Do you close down telephone communications with your same problem countries, because someone called in a threat from there? Stop all email to Nigeria because of the email scams?

Heck, do we close US banks because John Gotti had a checking account there?

I heard a ransom was once payed in cash. Lets make that illegal too.

Talk about overkill. Seems to me they could just add those banks to the current list of non-accessable banks. There must be such a list to stop transfers to North Korea, etc.

What, exactly, is the behavior you’d like to see curtailed? There are plenty of legitimate reasons to do banking overseas, and it’s not clear that these particular transactions are anything out of the ordinary, except that someone is using threats to start the transaction.

Guess I didn’t count on simulposts. My prior comment refered to this one:

Talk about overkill. Seems to me they could just add those banks to the current list of non-accessable banks. There must be such a list to stop transfers to North Korea, etc.

Seems you and Telemark both think that the only way to stop transfers to a “rogue” bank is to block all transfers to all countries. No…

There is such a list maintained by the US Treasury and OFAC. I referred to it in my first response.

But, what if the crooks are in Canada? AFAIK, there aren’t any restrictions against Canada at the moment. Then the question becomes whether or not the bank in Canada that received the wire has any obligation to assist United States law enforcement. It would be nice if they did, but if not, are you expecting United Nations to intercede?

Or, what if the crooks say to send the money by Western Union? If they’re extorting you for under $1,000, they don’t even need ID to collect the money - they just need to provide the answer to what WU calls a “test question.” What’s your recourse there? Bupkis. You were directed to send $900 to John Doe, and the test question is “What color is 3M’s painter’s masking tape?” - someone then walks into a WU office, says they’re John Doe and the answer is “Blue.” It’s a black hole. You’re out $900 and all WU can say is that someone identified themselves as the recipient of your money, got it and left.

Western Union is not a bank, so a lot of the controls we have over banks do not apply to them. Do you want more governmental oversight into private businesses as well?

Yes, effectively. What’s your grand plan for determining when a transaction is being made under duress?

Or I think more directly, what do you think these “rogue” nations (like the Bahamas) are doing that we need to stop? Exactly what is it in their banking system that enables illegal activity?

Hello! That’s the problem that I’m asking about. You can’t cite the problem stated in the OP as a rebuttal. Makes no sense.
The country doesn’t matter. There is no “UN mandate” that we can’t can’t control money leaving the US. Every country in the world has such monetary controls, even the poorest of the third world.
So it’s just a question of why don’t we? Answer, I don’t know why we don’t. I think it would be a good idea.
As to Western Union being completely unregulated and free to send money where it wants, that’s just no true. They have to face the same restrictions against sending money lots of places. And they voluntarily don’t send money to lots of places.

What I’m proposing is that we give them a few more bank names for their list.
You claim you don’t see the difference between blocking money to a specific bank with secret accouts and banning an entire country, or all countries even? Excuse me, but I must laugh at that, I just don’t believe you.

You should read some actual news articles about this and get your facts straight. Here’s one.

The extortionist is using simple money transfer services like Western Union. The phone calls have been traced, to Portugal, along with cell phone calls “registered to a Los Angeles phone number that was leased from a European company.”

So it’s not money laundering. It’s not off shore accounts in the sense you mean. The person doing this is working from a friendly country. They are cooperating. No banks need to stop services to anyone.

It’s just a crook using modern technology. Clever but nothing special. And nothing to indict the banking system for.

Or do you have some agenda that you’re pushing to ignore all this?

EXACTLY, it is as stated before, if a foreign bank is cooperative they will tell us who is on the receiving end of the extorted money. If they tell us, then there’s no problem, is there? So, for the extortion to work some off shore bank has to be blocking that.
Any bank that blocks such police inquiries would be blocked. Each bank has a routing number. It’s easy to block a “rouge” routing number. How, you naively ask? The same way they block non-existant or expired numbers. There’s a list that they have to check with right now. They don’t just send it like a postcard with a bad zip code into the dead letter office, they check that it’s a valid bank before they send the money.

No, sorry, this proposal is not an indictment of the banking system. Although you right wingers wish it was, it just isn’t. Nope. I think the banking system has a flaw. It’s not perfect. If you say it’s perfect I don’t believe you. And as for agendas, it seems you have a deep anti-regulation agenda. Swell for you, but not my agenda. Mine is exactly as stated in the OP, that transfers of this kind are easy to block, so we should, to stop this kind of crime before it takes place.