Under President Enrique Pena Nieto, the United Mexican States have undergone sweeping financial, fiscal, energy, and telecommunications reform legislation. However, the country’s attempts to combat transnational organized crime have continued to fall short with drug cartels growing in number and power. In 2008, Mexican authorities approved the Integral Strategy Against Organized Crime to counter the unprecedented threat posed by drug cartels to Mexico’s national security (IMF). The laws and procedures outlined in this strategy did not place sufficient emphasis on the need to dismantle criminal organizations through financial pressure. Since its criminalization in 1989, there have been solely 25 convictions of money laundering, a process which consistently provides fuel for drug dealers and terrorists to expand their criminal enterprises, while laws criminalizing financial terrorism have not met international standards to date.
Tax evasion has remained rampant as the Tax Administration Service and Financial Intelligence Unit fail to collaborate to ensure the full, timely, and secure access to suspicious transaction reports from exchange centers and other businesses. Additionally, criminal organizations are inextricably entwined with the trade of counterfeit and pirated goods. The Mexican government estimates that at least 1.13 trillion pesos ($58.5 billion) are lost to the drug trade et cetera per year.
Consequently, illegal markets continue to burgeon and the crime rate is holding fast at 1,433 per 100,000 citizens (O’Boyle, Reuters). This is not to imply that Mexico’s efforts have been completely stagnant. The country has joined the Financial Action Task Force against money laundering in South America as well as continued to effectively cooperate in the areas of mutual legal assistance and extradition involving money laundering and financial terrorism.
In summary, the nation is in respect to combating financial crime and in turn, stifling criminal organizations themselves. However, our country lacks optimization efforts of existing bodies aimed to combat money laundering, tax evasion, financial terrorism, fraud and counterfeiting. Solely in respect to money laundering and tax evasion, not only do the Tax Administration and FIU need to work together and increase staff, but the AML/CFT measures need clarity and consistency to combat the increasing number of unregulated multi-purpose finance companies— supervision must transcend compliance. Furthermore, the judges and prosecutors at the Deputy Attorney General’s Office for the investigation of organized crime would benefit from additional training on AML/CFT issues— laws and procedures do not adequately freeze terrorist funds. A similar slew of changes may be listed for the remaining two categories of financial crime.
It is vital to note the improbability that Mexico will be able to address all these issues in a set time period— another approach is necessary. In Mexico, most activities in which large denomination bills are used are illegal. Thus, the Mexican government has already banned cash payments of more than 500,000 pesos for real estate and more than 200,000 pesos for cars, jewelry, or lottery tickets (Matonis).
The most effective means of quelling crime in Mexico would be to follow this trajectory— a systematic phasing out of paper currency should be the ultimate goal. In a cashless economy, criminal activities, which predominantly rely on physical currency to conceal transactions and transfers of large sums of money, would be detected and prevented through verification algorithms, public/private keys, encryption, and more. A resolution in regards to the cashless shift must be developed and facilitated through international cooperation, enhanced transparency, and with preventative measures always at the forefront (a digital trail of transactions does not come without new digital crimes). The resolution should also hone in on the specifics of the technology behind this move to a cashless economy.
One option would be to adopt the “blockchain” (a specific system implemented by Nakamoto to support Bitcoin). Already 10% of the world’s gross domestic product will be stored in blockchain-based technology by 2025 (Ulieru, Scientific American). Taking into consideration these specific strategies to attack various components of financial crimes, the United Mexican States also seeks to create a more influential and comprehensive international financial crime task force whose recommendations serve a wider audience than the FATF currently. The nuances of this task force’s ultimate goals and how much authority can be allotted to this international body should be discussed in committee .
In addition, establishing a clear and logical structure in the resolution will be essential so as to address all subtopics within this complex issue.