Mexican drug cartels, along with an untold number of global criminal and terrorist organizations, launder billions of dollars every year through banks and money service businesses. In order to curb this cartel activity, the Mexican government has severely limited the amount of American dollars that can be deposited into numbered accounts. A side effect of this policy, however, has been that Mexicans and travelers who pass through the country’s airports can quickly and easily profit from buying U.S. dollars at a loss, then selling them a few feet away for pesos at a roughly 3 percent profit.
Cesar Tello, the vice president of Mexico’s foreign exchange trade association, explained to Bloomberg Business, “Churches, political parties, unions, to mention a few, all have this problem—they get dollars in cash and are stuck with them.” He continued, “If you have $100,000 and you can’t bank them, someone will be willing to take them for a price that’s not favorable.”
A Bloomberg reporter made an example of herself by buying US$100 with Mexican pesos at the exchange rate of 13.85 pesos per dollar on January 27 at the Mexico City airport. In the same terminal, she was able to deposit those dollars into her personal Mexican bank account, which accepted the money for 14.3 pesos per dollar. The profit wasn’t great—about 45 pesos, which will buy a bottle of beer—but it was a profit nonetheless that was perfectly legal to make.
The potential for making profits from this exchange loophole is limited since individuals in Mexico can still only deposit US$4,000 a month. This amounts to roughly US$125 in monthly profit given the current exchange rate. However, if enough people working for the same criminal organization took advantage of this loophole without being detected, those small profits could quickly add up.
Ivan Aleman, a vice president at Mexico’s financial regulator who heads the department in charge of compliance, told Bloomberg Business that officials are aware of how the regulations are affecting currency brokers and are working on a solution.
Sylvia Longmire is a border security expert and Contributing Editor for Breitbart Texas. You can read more about the money laundering activities of Mexican drug cartels in her new book, Border Insecurity: Why Big Money, Fences, and Drones Aren’t Making Us Safer.