Friday, June 12, 2009

Mexico: 'Blood Wires' Over the Border

MEXICO - The bleeding body of Mexican immigrant Javier Resendiz Martinez was the first thing police noticed when they raided the bungalow on North 63rd Avenue here four years ago after reports of gunshots.

Soon afterward, however, they found payment logs of more than 100 wire transfers to Western Unions in the border town of Caborca, Mexico -- which state and federal officials cite as evidence that the financial services company and other money transmitters are used by Mexican crime syndicates to help facilitate the smuggling of people into the United States.

Arizona Atty. Gen. Terry Goddard said human smuggling has become a $2-billion-a-year business in his state alone, thanks in large part to what he calls "blood wires," the payments from family members, friends and employers to smugglers via Western Union and other companies.

Goddard and other Arizona officials have not accused Western Union of a crime. But in interviews and court documents they say the company consistently has rejected requests for cooperation, undermining efforts in Arizona to go after the crime cartels that control much of the increasingly violent trade in humans, drugs, weapons and laundered cash from their havens in Mexico.

Western Union spokesman Daniel Diaz called Goddard's accusations "erroneous and inflammatory."

The Colorado-based company works cooperatively with law enforcement agencies around the world to identify and prosecute illegal activity, said Peter Ziverts, its vice president for anti-money laundering. He said Western Union had instituted numerous reforms to detect illegal wire transfers, including far more aggressive oversight of its thousands of independent money-store operators...


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