Office of Technical Assistance

Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs

OTA is comprised of five teams, each focused on particular areas of financial sector technical assistance to foreign governments. The mission of the OTA Economic Crimes Team (ECT), in particular, is to provide technical assistance to develop internationally compliant AML/CFT regimes. OTA follows a number of guiding principles to complement its holistic approach to technical assistance. OTA supports self-reliance by providing countries with the knowledge and skills required to move towards self-sufficiency and to reduce dependence on international aid. OTA is selective and works only with governments that are committed to reform - reform that the counterparts design and own - and to using U.S. assistance effectively. OTA works side-by-side with counterparts by introducing sound practices in daily work routines through ongoing mentoring and on-the-job training, which is accomplished through co-location, whether in a financial intelligence unit (FIU), central bank, finance ministry, law enforcement authority, or other relevant government agency.

OTA receives a limited amount of direct appropriations funding from the U.S. Congress. Additional funding sources include the U.S. Department of State, Bureau for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs; the U.S. Agency for International Development; U.S. Embassies; and the Millennium Challenge Corporation, among others.

In the context of providing technical assistance to reform AML/CFT frameworks, the ECT also addresses other financial and predicate crimes, including corruption and organized crime. To ensure successful outcomes, ECT engagements are predicated on express requests by foreign government counterparts. ECT management conducts an on-site assessment of the jurisdiction to consider not only non-compliance with international standards and the corresponding need for technical assistance, but also willingness by the counterpart to engage in active partnership with the ECT to address those deficiencies.

An ECT engagement, tailored to the specific conditions of the jurisdiction, may involve placement of a resident advisor or utilization of intermittent advisors under the coordination of a team lead. The scope of ECT technical assistance is broad and can include awareness-raising aimed at the range of AML/CFT stakeholders; improvements to an AML/CFT legal framework to include legislation, regulations, and formal guidance; and improvement of the technical competence of stakeholders. The range of training provided by the ECT is equally broad and includes, among other topics, supervisory techniques for banking, securities, insurance, gaming and other regulatory areas; analytic and financial investigative techniques; cross-border currency movement and trade-based money laundering; asset seizure, forfeiture, and management; and the use of interagency task forces.

In 2014, following these principles and methods, the ECT delivered technical assistance in Burma, Cambodia, Costa Rica, Dominica, El Salvador, Ghana, Guatemala, Guyana, Honduras, Jamaica, Kosovo, the Palestinian Authority, Paraguay, Peru, Saudi Arabia, Suriname, and Trinidad & Tobago. Representative counterpart accomplishments from around the world that were supported by that technical assistance include the following: Guatemalan authorities trained and supported by OTA technical assistance arrested 21 individuals and obtained several indictments related to a Guatemalan import/export company alleged to have laundered over $46 million for the Mexico-based Sinaloa Cartel; Ghana obtained a money laundering conviction in October 2014 related to embezzlement (approximately $1.4 million) from a construction company, and; with the assistance of the OTA advisor, the Cambodian Minister of Justice issued an instruction requiring parallel financial investigations be conducted for all crimes that generate significant proceeds, which resulted in a deeper level of collaboration between the Cambodian FIU and law enforcement agencies that in turn has led to an increase in the quality and quantity of investigations and prosecutions of financial crimes, including those related to corruption offenses.