Mexico’s Financial Intelligence Unit (UIF) is warning that unemployment due to the coronavirus pandemic may lead to an uptick in recruitment by organized crime.
The UIF, a government agency designed to track and prevent financial fraud such as money laundering and the financing of terrorism, came to the conclusion in part after noticing a surge in internet fraud.
The UIF also pointed out other opportunities for the propagation of illegal activity during the pandemic it continues to monitor.
In a recent virtual meeting with government officials, UIF chief Santiago Nieto highlighted the need to make sure that supplies of fentanyl, a medicine used in the treatment of the coronavirus, go to pharmacies and hospitals instead of ending up in the hands of organized crime and drug addicts.
Nieto also advocated for government assistance to those who have lost their jobs, cautioning that without federal aid, many people are turning to pawnshops and predatory money lenders.
He said his agency is monitoring the situation closely, especially in the case of online crime via social media platforms, the use of money transfer services and suspicious bank deposits to launder money, and cases of price gouging.
Non-profit organizations soliciting donations to help fight the coronavirus can also be used as fronts to launder money, he said.
Governmental corruption during the pandemic is also a possibility Nieto raised, noting that his office is investigating the theft of supplies from a Mexican Social Security Institute warehouse. The UIF is currently investigating Health Ministry officials during the presidency of Peña Nieto for tax fraud.
As more cash begins to circulate outside the formal economy, Nieto cautioned, the probability of “issues related to possible cases of corruption and issues related to organized crime,” will be on the rise.