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Congress chases terrorists, gets dealers

Numismatic News editor outlines pros and cons of new legislation.

Congress is an interesting branch of the government. Talk to people. Nobody wants Congress sticking its fingers in their lives. I have never met a person who sincerely wanted Congress messing around in his life.


People I have met want Congress messing around in other people’s lives. There is always some villain they think that Congress should be chasing, not the rest of us.

Top of the list of congressional targets to chase are terrorists. Who better than terrorists for Congress to go after? Right? They are worst of the bad.

I won’t defend terrorists. That would be dumb. However, I think it important to point out that as Congress chases terrorists, it has passed a law now up for renewal called the Patriot Act that chases coin and precious metals dealers.

Congress is afraid that coin dealers doing their daily business might somehow unsuspectingly help terrorists finance their activities. This foul deed of helping terrorists comes under the heading of money laundering. Funny, money laundering used to come under the heading of helping drug dealers, but, hey, they are yesterday’s bad guys. We’re after terrorists now.

Anyway, American laws that helped prevent coin dealers from inadvertently laundering money for drug dealers apparently are now not adequate for preventing them from laundering money for terrorists. Something stricter is needed, according to Congress.

So, while much of America sleeps, coin dealers will on Jan. 1 be required to have a written customized anti-money laundering policy. They will need a designated compliance officer. They need to be educated on the topic in a ongoing manner and they need to be subjected to independent testing to monitor and maintain their state of readiness to defend America against money laundering.

Congress is so concerned about the new money laundering threat that the Internal Revenue Service has already begun asking dealers for their anti-money laundering plans before the compliance deadline has even arrived. That’s vigilance. Furthermore, these new requirements are over and above cash reporting requirements, which mandate dealers maintain records and file Form 8300 to report cash transactions that individually or in a related aggregate total $10,000 or more.

The Patriot Act doesn’t stop at just cash. Terrorists may use a check, so dealers who have never dealt in cash or cash-like monetary instruments before will also have to file these new plans under Section 352 of the Patriot Act.
Congress has discovered that there are whole countries whose sole economic purpose in life is to be home to banks that work with terrorists, write checks for terrorists and otherwise provide access to the international money clearing system that eliminates the need for terrorists to carry around suitcases full of cash.

Why these terrorists would then be trying to convert their easily transportable paper and electronic funds into gold American Eagles is not explained. They usually have under-the-table government backing from the likes of Iran, or some harmless-sounding fake charity. Why they would be lugging gold around in the USA like a drug dealer is not clear, but if we have the defenses against drug dealing already, shouldn’t that be adequate for preventing essentially the same money-laundering process?

This law doesn’t apply just to coin dealers. It also applies to dealers in gemstones. Why? Well, Congress knows that warlords once captured and held gemstone mines in the civil war in Sierra Leone. They mined the deposits and used the stones to purchase guns.

Will terrorists take over the only diamond mine in the United States, grab as many stones as they can and only through the vigilance of U.S. coin and gemstone dealers be identified, caught and properly dealt with?

Now you know why America needs Congress and why the nation’s coin dealers must write their mandatory anti-money laundering plans. The fate of the nation hangs on them.