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The new antiterrorism law has given South Florida's internationally oriented banks a new reason for finding out who has been "naughty or nice" by Christmas Day.
Dec. 25 is the U.S. Treasury Department's deadline for banks with offices in the United States to prove that foreign banks that place deposits with them are not "shell banks:"
That definition covers many of the secrecy-seeking financial firms that have addresses in offshore banking centers in the Caribbean but do not have offices or employees in any country.
"If you have a bank that is not a true operating bank, you must close their account" by Dec. 25, said Robert Hudson, a partner in the Miami office of law firm Baker & McKenzie, which is advising banks on compliance with the new USA Patriot Act.
The Treasury Department's guideline on shell banks and its Tuesday deadline for identifying the owners of foreign correspondent banks, both issued Nov. 20, are the first orders for banks under the USA Patriot Act. President Bush signed that bill into law on Oct. 26.
Several Miami bankers said that most of the city's banks have already weeded out any shell bank depositors, under earlier pressure from bank regulators.
But many of Miami-Dade County's 37 foreign agency bank offices, the county's approximately one dozen internationally oriented FDIC-insured banks, and the South Florida …