Saturday, June 15, 2024

Mexicali customs officials suspects in moving arms, used vehicles

The Financial Intelligence Unit (UIF) is investigating a network of Mexicali, Baja California, customs officials who are alleged to allow weapons and used vehicles to cross the country’s northern border, the newspaper Milenio reports. 

At the center of their investigation is customs agent Roberto Ruiz Armas, who the UIF says granted hundreds, if not thousands, of irregular permits in exchange for money.

Complaints have been filed and agents suspected of corruption have had their bank accounts frozen due to suspicion of links to organized crime, said the head of UIF, Santiago Nieto.

Attempts to clean up corruption elsewhere have led to customs agents being fired for misconduct at the ports of Progreso, Tuxpan and Lázaro Cárdenas. Four other customs offices are also under scrutiny, Nieto said, although he declined to name them.

Last July the Federal Tax Administration agreed to the Ministry of Defense’s (Sedena) proposal to send 22 retired military personnel to manage half of the country’s customs offices, in the hopes that they would root out corruption. “The corruption problem at customs offices fosters organized crime activities such as the smuggling of arms, drugs, chemical precursors, cash and goods in general,” the proposal read.

Last year, Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard stated that 70% of crimes committed in Mexico are carried out with weapons brought into the country illegally from the United States.

And while illegal guns can lead to loss of life, illegally imported vehicles can lead to an important loss of revenue to both the Mexican government through taxes and importation fees, and the country’s auto industry, which claims that in the first trimester of 2019 alone 350,000 U.S. vehicles entered Mexico without the proper permits.

Often, in exchange for a bribe, corrupt customs agents will sign off on paperwork that severely undervalues a vehicle in order to lower the import tax.

Mexico’s customs chief resigned in April, less than a year after being appointed by President López Obrador to clean up corruption. Ricardo Ahued said he was leaving the post for personal reasons.

Source: Milenio (sp), Reforma (sp)

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