The U.S. Treasury Department has taken steps to cut off Burma from the U.S. financial system by designating the Southeast Asian country as a center for money laundering.
Treasury Secretary John Snow announced the action against the Burmese government and two Burmese banks on Wednesday. In a statement, Mr. Snow said President Bush and the Treasury Department are committed to cracking down on money laundering wherever it occurs.
The statement says Burma's anti-money-laundering system does not meet international standards, and until it does, the United States will continue to move towards ensuring that criminal proceeds from Burma do not reach American banks.
Under the U.S. Patriot Act, adopted in the wake of the September 2001 terrorist attacks, treasury officials can force American banks to halt many of their financial dealings with designated money launderers.
This is the third time the Patriot Act has been used to penalize under-regulated banking systems. It is the first time any banks have been designated. The Treasury Department says Myanmar Mayflower Bank and Asia Wealth Bank are linked to narcotics trafficking organizations in Southeast Asia.
Information for this report is provided by Reuters.