IN BRIEF : Banks Urged to Fight Crime

<i> From Times staff and wire service reports </i>

Western central bankers have joined the fight against international crime, urging banks to make it harder for criminals to disguise the origins of their money.

In a statement issued today, a committee of bankers from 12 Western countries said banks should insist on knowing the identity of their customers and should not handle suspicious transactions.

“Money laundering has become a matter of worldwide concern in the last few years,” said Werner Abegg, spokesman for the Swiss National Bank, which published the statement. “This is an appeal to banks to exercise a certain self-discipline in this area and to cooperate with the legal authorities.”

The statement was drafted by the Committee on Banking Regulations and Supervisory Practices, formerly known as the Cooke Committee. It urged banks to adopt higher ethical standards and to cooperate with police.