Mexican Cartels Using Local Currency Centers to Launder Funds Instead of Casas de Cambio

By Colby Adams

Thousands of lightly regulated currency exchange centers in Mexico are suspected of laundering criminal proceeds for drug trafficking organizations, according to analysts and former Mexican government officials. Use of the local currency centers by Mexican drug cartels follows actions taken by Mexican authorities against casas de cambio and U.S. banks terminating correspondent account services with them after Charlotte-based Wachovia, now owned by Wells Fargo, was fined $160 million in March 2010 for failing to monitor up to $420 billion of suspicious transactions from casas de cambio. Just nine casas de cambios still operate in Mexico, down from 25 in December...