MERIDA Yucatan (Central 9/Megamedia) – The Financial Intelligence Unit of the Ministry of Finance (FIU) received numerous reports of suspicious transactions in the Yucatan banking system earlier this year that would reflect money laundering practices in the entity.
The UIF records the reports of suspicious financial transactions from all Republic states every month to detect money laundering operations.
These operations are divided into “unusual,” “relevant,” “internal worrying,” due to international transfers, operations in dollars, and cashier’s checks.
When these activities meet specific characteristics -such as certain types of activities, amount, frequency of transactions, and profile of the holders of the bank accounts- the FIU starts the corresponding investigations, some of which end up in the blocking freezing of the accounts.
In its “Report of operations reports, January 2020”, in possession of Central 9, the Journalistic Investigation Unit of Megamedia Group, the agency states that in the case of Yucatan, 1,221 “unusual” operations reports were registered in the Merida banking system. That month represents an increase of 778.4% concerning the number of reports sent in January of the previous year.
According to that report, in the same period, the Yucatan capital was located as the sixth city in the country with the highest number of “relevant” operations, with 8,906 reports, and in the tenth city with the highest number of statements of cashier’s check issuing or payment operations.
Specialists consulted by Central 9 explain that many of these operations -not all- may indeed be related to money laundering strategies.
According to the FIU, “unusual” operations are not consistent with the background or activities are known or declared by the clients of financial institutions or with their usual pattern of behavior in their transactions.
In January 2019, the Financial Intelligence Unit received only 139 reports of such operations, but one year later, last January, the figure grew to 1,221, an increase of 778.4%.
After Merida, the location with the most “unusual” transaction reports -from 200 to 300 a year- was Progreso. It was followed by Valladolid -between 200 and 300 reports- and the municipalities of Tizimín, Buctzotz, Dzilam Bravo, Dzidzantún, Motul, Tekax, Oxkutzcab, Ticul, Maxcanú, Hunucmá and Izamal, which registered an average of 100 reports of “unusual” operations in the period from January 2019 to January 2020.
Reports of “unusual” operations in Merida represent 0.9% of the national total, which places the city in 19th place with more reports of this type in the country, the report says.
In 17th place is Cancun, with 1,242 reports. The FIU received in January, in all Mexico, 142,087 reports of “unusual” operations, an increase of 608.7% compared to the same period in 2019 (20 thousand 50 reports).
74.9% of the “unusual” transaction reports were generated in 10 entities: Mexico City, State of Mexico, Jalisco, Nuevo Leon, Baja California, Veracruz, Puebla, Guanajuato, Chihuahua and Michoacan.
Ninety-eight percent of these reports, in Yucatan and the country in general, were generated in the multiple banks’ branches.
Officials of these institutions write “unusual” transaction reports when their clients provide false identification data, frequently modify their beneficiaries, and show displeasure or nervousness if asked for more information about them or their companies.
Also, banks report accounts that record frequent cash withdrawals for significant amounts, unrelated to the cardholder’s activity, or for overpayment of credit cards to maintain favored balances that are then converted into cash.
When account holders repeatedly request cashier’s checks, money orders, or traveler’s checks, for considerable amounts, without apparent reason and paying in cash.
The cashier’s check is precisely another type of suspicious operation, frequently used to launder money.
For this reason and under the law, banks must issue a “suspicious operation report” for each cashier’s check issue or payment made by their clients, for an amount equal to or greater than the equivalent in the national currency of ten thousand dollars.
In January of this year, the UIF received 12,393 reports of cashier’s checks with these characteristics issued in Merida, equal to 2.5% of the national total.
This figure places Merida as the tenth city in the country with the highest number of operations of this type, “which shows the magnitude of suspicious operations identified in Yucatan,” says Dr. Jaime Ivan Martinez Herrera, a researcher at the Belisario Dominguez Institute of the Senate of the Republic, an expert on the subject.
For this reason and under the law, banks must issue a suspicious operation report for each cashier’s check issue or payment made by their clients, for an amount equal to or greater than the equivalent in the national currency of ten thousand dollars.
In January of this year, the Financial Intelligence Unit of the Ministry of Finance received 12,393 reports of cashier’s checks with these characteristics issued in Merida, equal to 2.5% of the national total.
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