U.S. and Mexican Officials Sign Letter of Intent to Share $6 Million in Forfeited Assets to Combat Financial Infrastructure of Organized Crime
WASHINGTON – U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and Mexican Attorney General Marisela Morales Ibáñez today signed a letter of intent for the United States to share approximately $6 million in forfeited funds with the Office of the Attorney General of the Republic of Mexico (PGR) to support Mexican efforts to combat the financial infrastructure of organized criminal groups and to enhance bilateral cooperation between the two countries in forfeiture matters.
The letter of intent and anticipated fund sharing recognizes the PGR’s valuable cooperation in the investigation and resolution of the U.S. government’s case against Sigue Corporation for violations of the Bank Secrecy Act. In January 2008, Sigue entered into a deferred prosecution agreement with the Department of Justice on charges of failing to maintain an effective anti-money laundering program. As a result, Sigue forfeited $15 million to the United States and agreed to commit an additional $9.7 million to improving its anti-money laundering program.
“The Department of Justice and the Mexican PGR have built strong and collaborative working relationships in order to combat transnational organized criminal groups,” said Attorney General Holder. “Our intention to share approximately $6 million in forfeited assets with our Mexican counterparts reflects another step forward in our successful crime prevention and public safety efforts. In an era where crime is not limited by physical boundaries, our international partnerships are more critical than ever in the work of bringing criminals to justice.”
As outlined in the letter of intent, the PGR and the Department of Justice, through the Criminal Division’s Asset Forfeiture and Money Laundering Section (AFMLS), will negotiate the specific terms of the Sigue case sharing agreement and establish respective Executive Sharing Committees designed to negotiate and oversee the sharing, delivery, transfer and disbursement of the forfeited funds.
The shared assets will be used to strengthen and support the PGR’s capacity to investigate and prosecute domestic and bilateral money laundering crimes, as well as Mexico’s ability to forfeit the proceeds of crime. This initiative is designed to complement ongoing bilateral efforts to increase pressure on the economic resources of the criminal organizations that operate in Mexico and along the U.S./Mexico border.
The case, filed in the Eastern District of Missouri, arose out of transactions conducted by Sigue and its authorized agents from November 2003 through March 2005. During this time, more than $24.7 million in suspicious transactions were conducted through registered agents of Sigue, including transactions conducted by undercover U.S. law enforcement agents using funds represented to be proceeds of drug trafficking. Sigue did not identify broader patterns of money laundering activity, failed to prevent the unlawful activity from continuing and did not create systems and procedures to identify suspicious financial transactions being conducted by related senders and beneficiaries.
The Sigue forfeiture resulted from a case prosecuted by AFMLS and was investigated by the Drug Enforcement Administration and Internal Revenue Service.