Mexico pushes money laundering up the agenda

Mexico City - The US anti-drugs Merida Initiative, announced in late October, comes as Mexico struggles to get to grips with money laundering at smaller financial institutions and tackle its moribund legal system. The US initiative, through which Mexico's northern neighbour pledges $1.4 billion of funds to fight drug running, underlined both Mexico's readiness to tackle the problem under president Felipe Calderón and just how serious the problem has become. Mexico is now the undisputed drugs gateway into the US.

There has been a sea-change in mentality. Authorities have recovered drugs and this is perhaps the first ever time that Mexico is seriously fighting back against drug traffickers, says Alejandro Tovar, a senior compliance offer for Scotiabank Financial Group, Mexico. These attempts to tackle the problem have already unleashed a wave of violence as traffickers fight back.

Difficulties for authorities and banks in controlling laundering include the high use of cash in the economy. An emerging

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