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Mexico; United States: Agreement on Exchange of Trade Information

(Dec. 11, 2014) In October 2014, the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Mexico’s Tax Administration Service (SAT) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) aimed at exchanging information through a Trade Transparency Unit (TTU) concerning exports and imports of goods between the two countries, in order to detect fraud in trade-based transactions and other illicit operations. The MOU seeks to “help ensure compliance with customs laws and assist special agents and officers in detecting and preventing trade fraud, smuggling and trade-based money laundering.” (Press Release, ICE, ICE, SAT Participate in First Regional Forum on Combatting Illicit Trade: Directors Sign MOU Establishing Cooperation Through a Trade Transparency Unit (Oct. 9, 2014).)

Trade-based illicit transactions take place when criminal organizations move ill-gotten gains through simulated international trade operations, to make them appear to be legitimate proceeds transactions. (Investigating Illegal Movement of People and Goods: Trade Transparency Unit, ICE website (last visited Dec. 8, 2014).)

ICE started the TTU program in order to address this issue, by establishing agreements with other countries under which information on international trade transactions is exchanged and analyzed with sophisticated software that allows authorities to review both sides of the operations in order to spot irregularities in international trade flows and financial inconsistencies that may signal the commission of crimes based on export-import activities. (Id.)

In addition to Mexico, other countries have also established TTU arrangements with ICE, including Argentina, Colombia, and Panama. (Id.)