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NEWS & POLITICS - Mexico Offers Bounty

Mexico Offers Bounty For Reporting Money Laundering
By Joe Palazzolo

Mexico is ratcheting up its campaign against money laundering with a new program that provides whistle blowers up to one-quarter of any illicit funds or property seized by the Mexican government. People can file reports in person, by telephone or by e-mail, The  Associated Press reported. The amount of the reward will be determined by an evaluation committee on a case-by-case basis. Public servants, law enforcement and bank employees are ineligible for the program.

Although President Felipe Calderon has introduced tough anti-money laundering measures, Mexico is struggling to stem about $10 billion a year in suspicious cash flows possibly linked to drug trafficking,
according to the AP. Legislation proposed in August by the Calderon administration would make it illegal to buy real estate in cash, and would limit the purchase of  vehicles, boats, airplanes and luxury goods to 100,000 pesos in cash, or about $7,700. Violators could be sentenced to five to 15 years in  prison. The legislation is pending.

Last June, the Mexican government imposed restrictions on cash deposits  and withdrawals in U.S. dollars. Mexicans with bank accounts can deposit as much as $4,000 in cash per month; Mexicans without accounts can  exchange $300 a day up to $1,500 a month. As the Mexicans intensify their efforts, the U.S. Department of Justiceis standing up a unit of money laundering prosecutors and forfeiture  experts to concentrate on Mexican drug cartels.

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