US Treasury and Mexican Government in Talks to Share Operational Information to Combat Illicit Finance from Fentanyl Trafficking

February 13, 2024

Officials from two key offices within the US Treasury Department, dedicated to combating fentanyl trafficking and its financing, visited Mexico last week to engage in discussions with officials from the Government of Mexico and representatives from both nation’s financial sectors.

On February 08, Treasury’s representatives jointly co-lead an illicit finance roundtable along with the Government of Mexico’s Unidad de Inteligencia Financiera (UIF), the Mexican financial intelligence unit, and Unidad de Banca, Valores y Ahorro (UBVA), the Mexican banking and securities regulator. The collaboration brought together financial intelligence units, financial institutions law enforcement agencies, and regulators from both countries, as per Treasury’s press release.

Treasury’s Office of Terrorist Financing and Financial Crimes, on February 09, in partnership with the Mexican Ministry of Finance and Public Credit, organized the 19th Bilateral Public Private Banking Working Group. The objective of this gathering was to assemble financial institutions, policymakers, regulators, and supervisory authorities from both countries to address illicit finance.

The visit is followed by Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen’s visit to Mexico in December 2023. During the visit, Yellen emphasized the need for combating fentanyl and stated, Treasury will “use every tool at its disposal to disrupt the ability of drug traffickers to peddle this poison in our country.”

Key Takeaways from the Discussion

  • Discussions in the dialogue revolved around the transnational criminal organizations (TCOs) that are engaged in cross-border financial crimes such as laundering proceeds of trafficking fentanyl precursors, human trafficking, fraud, and corruption.
  • The public-private dialogue also revealed the involvement of organized crime networks in obscuring profits obtained from such illegal activities.
  • The officials stressed the significance of financial crime markers like red flags, indicators, and typologies which can help financial institutions identify financial crimes and other associated crimes.
  • Alongside talking about the indicators of financial crimes, the US Treasury encouraged financial institutions to voluntarily increase information sharing with Mexican Banks, to promote enhanced collaboration in identifying and mitigating financial crimes.
  • The authorities deliberated on the strategies to streamline the sharing of operational information across borders to counter mutual threats including illicit finance linked to fentanyl & human trafficking.

In efforts to address fentanyl trafficking, the US Treasury initiated a ‘Counter Fentanyl Trafficking Strike Force’. The force is established to counter illicit trafficking of fentanyl utilizing the Treasury’s resources and expertise.

The strike force under the leadership of the Office of Terrorism and Financial Intelligence (TFI) and IRS Criminal Investigation (CI), integrates personnel, skills, resources, and intelligence from key Treasury Offices. By using available resources and conducting investigations, the strike force aims to enhance the financial effectiveness against the trade of fentanyl including sanctions and law enforcement actions.

The influx of fentanyl into the United States is escalating, indicating more diversity as opposed to previous years, with the emergence of new source and transit countries as significant trafficking nodes. This poses challenges for law enforcement efforts and policy measures seeking to halt the movement of fentanyl into the US. China and Mexico appear as the major source countries for the trade of fentanyl and its precursors. US Treasury seeks to collaborate with the Government of Mexico to root out this synthetic opioid analgesic and address illicit finance interconnected to the drug.

Also read: FinCEN Exchange Aligns Private & Public Sectors to Share Information to Combat Fentanyl Trafficking