Mex­ico takes aim at Jalisco car­tel fi­nances

Gulf Times - - AMERICAS -

New Mex­i­can Pres­i­dent An­dres Manuel Lopez Obrador is tak­ing aim at the fi­nances of the pow­er­ful Jalisco car­tel in what a top anti-money laun­der­ing of­fi­cial said was the open­ing salvo in the fight to stop crim­i­nal gangs from flour­ish­ing with im­punity.

San­ti­ago Ni­eto, the new head of the fi­nance min­istry’s Fi­nan­cial In­tel­li­gence Unit, told Reuters on Thurs­day that he had filed a com­plaint against three busi­nesses and seven peo­ple linked to the Jalisco New Gen­er­a­tion Car­tel.

On Wed­nes­day, the fi­nance min­istry said Ni­eto’s unit had filed its first com­plaint with prose­cu­tors, but did not in­clude any de­tails.

The move against the Jalisco car­tel, a rel­a­tive new­comer that has risen to be­come one of Mex­ico’s most dan­ger­ous crim­i­nal gangs, her­alds a new ef­fort to over­come Mex­ico’s rep­u­ta­tion for weak pros­e­cu­tions against drug gang fi­nances.

“I am con­vinced the best way to pre­vent crim­i­nal be­hav­iour is by send­ing a mes­sage that these types of acts that vi­o­late trust and so­cial norms will be pun­ished,” Ni­eto said in a tele­phone in­ter­view.

He said the gov­ern­ment, which took of­fice on Satur­day, wanted to send “a first mes­sage” that it was go­ing to fo­cus on tak­ing le­gal ac­tion “and es­pe­cially seek to im­pose penal­ties.”

Mex­ico’s drug war has raged for over a decade de­spite the cap­ture of king­pins such as Joaquin “El Chapo” Guz­man.

Although car­tels have splin­tered, the flow of drugs north has con­tin­ued un­abated, while vi­o­lence in Mex­ico hit record lev­els last year.

In Oc­to­ber, the United States of­fered a $10mn re­ward for in­for­ma­tion lead­ing to the ar­rest of the sus­pected leader of the Jalisco or­gan­i­sa­tion, Neme­sio Oseguera, also known as El Men­cho.

Ni­eto said he was able to quickly file the com­plaints be­cause the busi­nesses and peo­ple tar­geted al­ready ap­pear on the US Trea­sury’s Of­fice of For­eign As­sets Con­trol (OFAC) black list of drug traf­fick­ers.

Com­plaints from the Fi­nan­cial In­tel­li­gence Unit gen­er­ally in­clude ev­i­dence that is in­tended to prompt prose­cu­tors to open crim­i­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tions.

Left­ist Lopez Obrador, who has pledged to fight cor­rup­tion, has re­peat­edly stressed that he wants good re­la­tions with the United States, Mex­ico’s neigh­bour and main ex­port part­ner.

The Fi­nan­cial Ac­tion Task Force (FATF), an in­ter­na­tional or­gan­i­sa­tion that sets global stan­dards for fight­ing il­licit fi­nance, crit­i­cised Mex­ico early this year for sys­tem­at­i­cally fail­ing to pun­ish money laun­der­ers.

The FATF re­port pointed to a de­clin­ing rate of al­ready-low pros­e­cu­tions based on data from the in­tel­li­gence unit.

Ni­eto said that ac­tion by au­thor­i­ties slowed even more in 2018, the last year of Pres­i­dent En­rique Pena Ni­eto’s ad­min­is­tra­tion.

The num­ber of com­plaints from the unit de­clined and only three of them led to charges this year, he said.

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