In 3 Years, Mexico Sees Just 29 Trials to Seize Narco Assets

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Mexico has initiated just 29 legal proceedings to reclaim assets linked to organized crime since a 2009 law provided prosecutors with new powers, calling the law’s effectiveness into question.

The proceedings have targeted properties owned by renowned criminal groups such as the Beltan Leyva Organization (BLO), as well as the assets of former Tijuana Cartel boss Teodoro Garcia Simental, alias “El Teo,” reports Excelsior.

So far only two properties have been successfully reclaimed by the state, each valued at over $235,000, as well as almost $70,000 in cash, while other legal proceedings remain ongoing.

The Federal Forfeiture Law allows for the confiscation of property directly owned by criminal groups and individuals, as well as assets used for criminal activity, as long as it can be proved that the asset owners were aware of the activity. 

So far the assets targeted have included property used in the high-profile 2002 kidnapping of two sisters of Mexican singer Thalia, as well as properties related to the last days of drug kingpin Arturo Beltran Leyva, who died in a shootout with Mexican marines in 2009.

InSight Crime Analysis

The 2009 asset seizure law gives Mexican authorities a new, powerful tool in the fight against organized crime, but with less than $1 million of property reclaimed since it came into force, it’s clear that the Attorney General’s Office (PGR) and the courts have had serious trouble in applying the law speedily.

The process has been slowed down by the fact that when proving the assets were owned or used by criminals, prosecutors must not rely solely on confessions as evidence, according to Excelsior.  

This does not represent a significant challenge for prosecutors in cases in which criminals have been discovered using the property as a safe house, or in which obvious evidence of criminal activity has been uncovered. It becomes more complicated when the case involves an indirect money trail linking assets to criminal groups.

As detailed in a 2012 report by Mexico’s Congress, there are other legal technicalities that have prevented the asset seizure law from being fully effective. The ability of the Mexican government to ramp up its ability in enforcing the legislation will determine whether it can be deemed a success in coming years.

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