WASHINGTON – The Bush administration announced Tuesday that it has resumed sharing a wide range of financial information with Mexico with the aim of trying to catch money launderers (search), drug dealers and terrorist financiers.
In April, the United States had suspended sharing such information with Mexico (search), dealing a blow to cross-border crime fighting, which had resulted in the arrests of several high-profile drug lords.
The U.S. government did so after sensitive information provided by the Treasury Department's Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (search) was leaked by Mexican officials. After the suspension, the network outlined a set of steps that Mexico should take before the United States would agree to resume information-sharing.
The Treasury Department said Tuesday that Mexico has since taken steps to safeguard sensitive financial information it receives from the United States and other countries.
"As Mexico has demonstrated their commitment to and recognizes the importance of holding the information we share to the utmost secrecy, we are pleased to re-engage in our information sharing relationship," said Treasury Secretary John Snow.
Officials in both countries monitor tens of thousands of financial transactions and share information on possible illegal activity.
What triggered the suspension last April was the leaking of confidential U.S. information to the Mexican public during a political scandal in the country.
Mexican authorities have alleged that Mexico City's mayor, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (search), violated the law by revealing the results of a U.S. investigation of his former finance secretary, Gustavo Ponce. Lopez Obrador has contended that the information he leaked was already public knowledge. The information was published in Mexican newspapers.
Ponce disappeared after clandestine videos of him gambling in Las Vegas were broadcast in Mexico. The videos were accompanied by anonymous reports describing Ponce's lavish spending in Las Vegas, allegedly with taxpayer money.
The steps taken by Mexico to improve the handling of sensitive financial information comes after months of negotiations between the country and the United States, Treasury said.
Mexico's financial intelligence unit now has an agreement with Mexico's Attorney General's office that, among other things, sets strict safeguards to ensure financial information shared with the country is "used and disclosed only in an authorized manner," Treasury said, without elaborating.
In addition, Treasury said Mexico has developed a training program for educating officials on the procedures for handling sensitive financial intelligence information.
William Fox, director of Treasury's Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, said his network would continue to work with Mexico on the implementation of these steps.
"We are encouraged by Mexico's commitment to address our concerns as both countries view our financial information sharing arrangement as a very valuable and productive component in the international fight against terrorist financing and money laundering," Fox said.