Mexico passes law to curb cartel money laundering

In this photo taken Thursday, Aug. 9, 2012, vehicles drive along the border fence in Nogales, Mexico.(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

MEXICO CITY: Mexico's Congress has approved a law aimed at cracking down on the money-laundering of powerful drug cartels by allowing authorities to better monitor suspicious financial transactions.

The law -- which passed by unanimous vote in the senate Thursday after having been previously approved by the lower house -- allows law enforcement to better monitor suspicious purchases of assets like homes and jewelry.

"The purpose of this law is to protect the financial system and the national economy, establishing rules and procedures to prevent and detect transactions or operations that involve illegal proceeds," the legislation said.

Included in the law is a requirement to report the buying or selling of real-estate worth over one million pesos ($77,000); planes, boats or cars worth over 200,000 pesos ($15,000); and jewelry, watches and works of art worth more than 300,000 pesos ($23,000).

The law prescribes fines and jail sentences of up to 20 years for violators, and sets up a special financial analysis unit under the federal prosecutor to work alongside the Finance Ministry.

Senator Alejandro Encinas said financing was a crucial front in the government's war on the cartels, estimating that they launder as much as $230 million a year.

Mexico has been locked in a brutal drug war against several powerful cartels in recent years, with an estimated 60,000 people killed in drug-related violence since the launch of a military crackdown on organized crime in 2006.





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