CBP Seizes Less Than 1% of Drug Money Smuggled Into Mexico Across Southwest Border, Says GAO

By Edwin Mora | March 11, 2011 | 5:33am EST

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(CNSNews.com) -- The Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agency over the last two years has seized about $65 million along the southwest border in illicit bulk cash being smuggled out of the United States.That's less than 1 percent of the estimated $18-$39 billion in drug-trafficking proceeds ferreted across the border, a government report states.

According to a Mar. 9 audit by the Government Accountability Office (GAO), from March 2009 through Feb. 22, 2011, the CBP seized $67 million in illicit cash leaving this country, of which 97 percent (about $65 million) was confiscated along the U.S.-Mexico border.

That amounts to about $32.5 million dollars a year in illegal proceeds seized along the southwest border during that period.

“In March 2009, CBP re-established the Outbound Enforcement Program within its Office of Field Operations,” stated the GAO. “As a result of its outbound enforcement activities, CBP seized about $67 million in illicit bulk cash leaving the country at land ports of entry -- 97 percent of which was seized along the southwest border ….”

“Total seizures account for a small percentage of the estimated $18 billion to $39 billion in illicit proceeds being smuggled across the southwest border annually,” said the report.

According to the GAO, the CBP knows that its ability to deter the flow of illicit cash leaving the United States is “limited” because it finds it difficult to identify the cash traffickers.

In the audit, the GAO re-visited the “management challenges” that that CBP is facing in stemming the flow of illicit proceeds out of America as detailed in an October 2010 GAO report.

Those challenges include, “limitations in staffing, infrastructure, and technology,” a lack of “policies and procedures to ensure the safety of officers involved in outbound operations,” and a lack of “a performance measure that assesses the effectiveness of the program.”

Furthermore, the GAO warned in its recent report, “Criminals can use other methods of transporting proceeds from illegal activities across the nation’s borders, including stored value. Regulatory exemptions heighten the risk that criminals may use stored value to finance their operations.”

According to the GAO, “stored value” refers to “prepaid cards or gift cards that are loaded with currency or value.”

“For example, unlike its requirements for cash, FinCEN [the Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network] does not require travelers to report stored value in excess of $10,000 to CBP when crossing the border,” added the report.

“FinCEN is in the process of developing and issuing regulations to address the risk associated with the illicit use of stored value, as required by the Credit Card Accountability Responsibility and Disclosure Act of 2009 (Credit CARD Act), but much work remains and it is unclear when the agency will issue the final regulations,” said the GAO.

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