'If I was involved, I'd be nervous': Treasury Department's Financial Crimes division looking at Trump associates
FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Donald Trump faces a news conference at the White House in Washington, U.S., February 16, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

Senate investigators hot on the trail of potential collusion between Russia and Donald Trump are turning to a little known Treasury Department database that could provide evidence of criminal money laundering.

The Treasury Department's Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) is a huge database of financial transactions that indicate possible money laundering. Under the Bank Secrecy Act, US financial institutions are required to notify the Treasury Department of any such transactions.

"It goes to the old adage of 'follow the money.' If there was collusion between the Russians and members of the Trump campaign, was it for free, or was there some exchange of moneys or payments from foreign governments?" Notre Dame Law School Professor Jimmy Gurulé told NPR.

As NPR noted, "Trump made much of his fortune in real estate and gaming, two industries that have been notorious venues for money laundering."

Professor Gurulé had oversight responsibility for FinCEN when he served as Under Secretary for Enforcement at the Treasury Department. He is an internationally recognized expert in the field of anti-money laundering.

"If I was involved with some criminal wrongdoing related to this investigation, this would make me very nervous," Professor Gurulé says of the FinCEN database of possible money laundering transactions.

"These make for attractive landing pads, if, say, you're a suspicious person wanted for criminal activity in your home country and you actually need a place to cool your jets," explained Mark Hays, who heads the anti-money-laundering campaign at the nonprofit Global Witness. "You make the purchase real estate person says, 'Who owns this company?' It's so-and-so LLC. 'Well, who owns that?' That's not on the record. No one knows that."

Last week, Senator Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) also focused on potential money laundering when questioning acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe.

“We hear stories about Deutsche Bank, Bank of Cyprus, shell companies, Moldova, the British Virgin Islands,” Wyden said. “I’d like to get your sense, because I am over my time, Director McCabe, what should we be most concerned about with respect to illicit Russian money and its potential to be laundered on its way to the United States?”

McCabe told Senator Wyden he couldn't speak about such aspects of the investigation in a public setting, but agreed those issues also concerned the FBI agents working the investigation.