An April 20, 2010 statement from the U.S. Attorney for the District of Arizona memorializes the U.S. Department of Justice strategy for fighting the scourge of Mexico’s drug cartels.  The April 20th statement indicates that the Department of Justice concentrates on: gathering intelligence about the cartels; targeting cartel leaders for extradition and seizing illicit assets; investigating the cartels’ U.S. crimes like gun and bulk cash smuggling; battling the cartels’ violent crimes and narco-trafficking in the U.S.; and prosecuting cartel members in federal court.

This statement additionally mentioned the Mérida Initiative, (referred to herein as "the Initiative"), which is funding equipment and training for Mexico to fight the cartels.  Some of the Initiative’s expenditures are listed at the excerpt below from Table 3, p. 25 of the "Merida Initiative: The United States Has Provided Counternarcotics and Anticrime Support but Needs Better Performance Measures":

(To Enlarge Click On The Excerpt)


While the above highlighted excerpt shows that the Initiative allocates funds for "[f]inancial intelligence unit and financial crimes" training, there could be a problem.  Mexico’s financial intelligence unit known as Unidad de Inteligencia Financiera ("UIF"), may receive a relatively small amount of these funds.  Although the Initiatives’ budget for the years 2008-2010 is a whopping $1.6 billion, "UIF" is reportedly getting only $5 million in IT assistance according to p. 25 of Douglas Farah’s May 2010 working paper, "Money Laundering and Bulk Cash Smuggling: Challenges for the Mérida Initiative". 

Given the complex financial structures drug cartels often use to transfer vast sums of money, the Initiative’s $5 million dollar allotment for IT may not adequately support UIF’s investigations of the cartels’ money-laundering operations.  UIF additionally needs ample resources to successfully locate illicit assets with an eye toward asset forfeiture and to develop its money laundering typologies— studies of how drug cartels and others actually "wash" their assets. 

UIF could also need sufficient funding for data mining and the link chart analysis of information ranging from suspicious financial transactions to the purchase of pseudophedrine for meth "super labs".  Perhaps most important, is that UIF exchanges information about money laundering and other crimes with both domestic authorities and foreign financial intelligence units (a.k.a " foreign FIUs").  This type of exchange of information is depicted by a "Basic FIU Concept" diagram:

<img width="375" height="299" src=" shot 2010-09-05 at 9_57_18 PM.png" alt=""

(Diagram Courtesy Of The Egmont Group Of Financial Intelligence Units)

Copyright 2010 Fred L. Abrams