Attorneys general from the southwestern U.S have reached a $94 million settlement with Western Union Financial Services, Inc., that resolves a decade-long investigation into illicit money transfers that "have flowed freely" in the border region.
The settlement includes $50 million in funding for the "Southwest Border Anti-Money Laundering Alliance," a four-state coalition against money laundering that includes the attorneys general of Arizona, California, New Mexico and Texas.
"For years, billions of dollars in smuggling profits have flowed freely between the United States and Mexico," said California AG Edmund G. Brown Jr. "Today's agreement with Western Union gives our region the resources and cooperation we need to stem the flow of illicit cash across our borders."
The settlement follows a decade-long investigation by the Office of the Arizona Attorney General into illegal money-laundering activity in the Southwest border region. The investigation found that hundreds of millions of dollars are being channeled to drug, weapon and human traffickers through Western Union money transfers.
To resolve Arizona's investigation and more effectively address illegal money laundering, Western Union has agreed to:
• Provide $50 million to establish and fund the Southwest Border Anti-Money Laundering Alliance;
• Invest $19 million over the next several years into upgrades to its anti-money-laundering program;
• Provide $4 million to support an independent monitoring program established to ensure anti-money-laundering measures are implemented; and
• Pay $21 million to the State of Arizona to cover investigation and litigation expenses.
"Bringing the four Southwest border states together and providing the money and information available in this agreement is a major step in our ability to crack down on drug cartels and organized border crime." said Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard.
The Southwest Border Anti-Money Laundering Alliance will support and fund training, information sharing and other initiatives in member states and Mexico and will work to enhance and better coordinate money-laundering investigations and prosecutions.
Under the agreement, law enforcement organizations in Arizona, California, New Mexico and Texas will each be guaranteed grants totaling a minimum of $7 million to bolster efforts to combat money laundering.
The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency estimates that $18 billion to $39 billion is being smuggled from the United States to Mexico every year.