Accounts held at Merrill Lynch, Dean Witter, Paine Webber and Prudential Securities are named in the order, filed under anti-racketeering laws, officials confirmed.
But the brokerage firms insisted they had not been approached by any law enforcement agency, no customer accounts had been seized, and they knew nothing about a broader money-laundering investigation by customs and tax authorities. Merrill Lynch said it had a long history of collaborating with the Drug Enforcement Agency in fighting money- laundering.
The two Treasury Department agencies are conducting an inquiry, code-named El Dorado, that has found drug money launderers channelling their illegal profits into brokerage accounts rather than commercial banks.
The money in question - dollars 100bn a year, according to one study - enters the US from Latin America as electronic funds transfers, avoiding the restrictions that apply to movements of cash.Reuse content