United States-Mexico Partnership: Anti-Arms Trafficking and Anti-Money Laundering

Fact Sheet
Office of the Spokesman
Washington, DC
March 23, 2010

In support of the goals of the Mérida Initiative, the United States Government (USG) is working closely with the Government of Mexico (GOM) to disrupt the flow of firearms, ammunition, explosives and bulk cash being trafficked/smuggled from the United States into Mexico. The USG and GOM are also working to disrupt the flow of illicit proceeds back to criminal organizations. USG programs focused on training and information sharing are having a positive impact.

  • Co-located Strike Forces established along the Southwest Border are aggressively targeting the highest-level and most violent drug trafficking organizations to combat their criminal activities, including narcotics and arms trafficking, bulk cash smuggling, and money laundering and financial crimes.
  • The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)-led Border Enforcement Security Task Forces (BESTs), ten of which are located along the southwest border, leverage U.S. and Mexican law enforcement resources to stop organizations seeking to exploit vulnerabilities on the border for illegal activities, including the exportation of firearms into Mexico.

Anti-Arms Trafficking

  • The USG and the GOM are partnering in unprecedented bilateral interdiction, investigation and information-sharing activities to identify, disrupt, and dismantle trans-border criminal networks that traffic/smuggle weapons from the United States into Mexico. For example, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF) has deployed “Spanish” e- Trace, a web-based system which allows Mexican investigators to trace weapons known to originate from the United States.
  • The USG has also taken an aggressive approach to combat illicit trafficking in arms by promoting the capabilities of states in the hemisphere to control, secure, and destroy excess national stockpiles as well as to mark and trace firearms.
  • USG operational efforts have been complemented by Mérida-funded equipment and capacity building efforts.
  • Four Integrated Ballistics Identification Systems (IBIS) have been provided to forensics labs in Mexico to assist with tracing weapons used in crimes.
  • Non-intrusive inspection equipment is also being provided to Mexican agencies to help with the detection of guns, money, and drugs.
  • The USG has sponsored three bilateral conferences on arms trafficking, the first with the U.S. Departments of Justice, State and Homeland Security (DHS) at the ministerial level, followed by two DOJ-organized programs at the working level focusing on Mexico’s northern and southern borders.
  • K9 training, for experienced Mexican dog handlers and supervisors, is being coordinated and conducted by the USG.

Anti-Money Laundering
Disrupting the ability to move and launder money is a key tool in disabling the operations of Drug Trafficking Organizations (DTOs). Through a Bilateral Money Laundering Working Group, Mexican and U.S. law enforcement agencies are cooperating to create the programs and strategies that will improve coordination in the area of investigations and prosecutions, bulk cash seizures, and the overall reduction of money laundering activities. The USG, through the Departments of Justice, Homeland Security and Treasury, are coordinating operational and capacity building programs with their Mexican counterparts.
  • Anti-Money Laundering Capacity Building – Money laundering components are included in the USG training programs developed with Mérida Initiative funding. These modules have already been taught to thousands of Federal Police (SSP) officials, the Attorney General’s office (PGR), the Finance Ministry and other non-governmental organizations (NGOs). The USG continues its vigorous bilateral anti-money laundering investigations with the support of vetted GOM personnel. These investigations target the proceeds and assets of major criminal organizations outside of the United States.
  • Binational Study on Criminal Proceeds – U.S. and Mexican law enforcement agencies have partnered to increase information sharing, as legally and operationally appropriate, on bulk cash smuggling routes and money laundering networks operating in the United States, Mexico and beyond.
  • Advanced Investigative Techniques – A bilateral working group is helping to implement advanced investigative techniques targeted against money laundering organizations. Over 350 officials from the PGR, SSP and Finance Ministry have already been trained in advanced money laundering analysis and investigative techniques.
  • Bulk Currency Operations – Several USG operational initiatives have been launched in an effort to disrupt couriers moving large sums of cash.
  • Asset Forfeiture – The USG and GOM are seeking ways to support vigorous implementation of Mexico’s asset forfeiture laws, including new legislation enacted last year, in order to deny criminal organizations and leaders the proceeds of their crimes and the resources to commit further offenses against the United States and Mexico.
  • Economic Sanctions – The National Banking and Security Commission (CNBV) has reinvigorated existing authorities requiring Mexican financial institutions to verify transactions against international watch lists, specifically the U.S. Treasury/OFAC list, which includes key Mexican drug trafficking organizations that have been targeted for designation pursuant to the U.S. Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act.

PRN: 2010/T26-1