MEXICO CITY - Julie L. Myers, Assistant Secretary of Homeland Security for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Juan Jose Bravo Moisés, Administrator General for Mexico Customs, announced today the opening of a Trade Transparency Unit (TTU) in Mexico City as part of the ongoing bi-lateral cooperation between the two agencies.
ICE TTUs offer the ability to share information through cooperative, international investigative efforts. These investigations identify and eliminate trade-based money laundering systems, which facilitate the illegal movement of criminal proceeds across international borders. These illicit proceeds often fuel drug, human or contraband trafficking and terrorism.
"The ill-gained profits funneled across our international borders will lead the TTU to those responsible for transnational criminal activity," said Myers. "Mexico's cooperation has proven unprecedented and is the largest such initiative ICE has undertaken in our efforts to combat the rise in complex and sophisticated financial and trade crimes around the world."
Mexico Customs provided an incredible volume of trade data -- “ three full years worth of transactions. This level of data far exceeds the amount of similar information ICE has at all of the other field-based TTUs combined throughout Latin and South America.
"Mexico's Trade Transparency Unit is yet another complement to our risk analysis strategy which will allow us to become a more secure and smart Customs Administration. Today, the possibility that the flow of goods through international trade might be used for the exchange of goods or resources between countries by international criminal organizations is a fact," Bravo said.
The ICE TTU in Mexico City is comprised of 15 law enforcement professionals -- a dozen from the Mexican Hacienda, or Finance Ministry, known as the Central Administration for Taxation Intelligence for External Commerce and three from ICE's Financial Intelligence Unit. All staff members completed specialized training last month and the unit is now fully operational.
Foreign trading partners, like the Mexican government, can benefit by being able to identify and collect revenues that are lost because of duty evasion, tax fraud, and over- and undervaluation of commodities.
ICE created the Trade Transparency Unit at ICE Headquarters in 2004, and the first foreign TTU in Colombia in 2005. Similar foreign TTUs have also been established with Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, and now Mexico. TTU investigations resulted in the seizure of currency and contraband valued at approximately $21 million last fiscal year. In FY 2008 to date, TTU related investigations have resulted in more than 100 seizures totaling more than $3.7 million.
The Department of State (DOS) Narcotics Affairs Section (NAS) at the U.S. Embassy in Mexico provided FY 2008 funding for computers, software, training, and TDY positions.