Thursday, April 16, 2009

obama steps up effort to curb gun and drug trafficking

Washington Post | President Obama yesterday ratcheted up efforts to curb the flow of drugs and guns across the southern border, imposing financial sanctions against three of the most violent Mexican drug cartels and threatening to prosecute Americans who do business with them.

Since 2000, 78 drug kingpin groups and individuals have been blacklisted by the U.S. government, along with nearly 500 others who have supported them. The law has been used most extensively against Colombian drug traffickers, particularly the Cali cartel.

A Treasury Department official said its office of foreign assets control is working with other agencies to identify cartel assets, but the official described a much broader net of potential liability. Anyone who knowingly deals with a cartel representative or provides goods, services or other support can face penalties, the official said, including money launderers, front companies and other facilitators. That could include banks and other financial institutions, gun dealers, money-transfer companies and transportation firms.

"If you are a Mexican company buying or receiving weapons for a cartel, you can be designated," the official said. "If you are the U.S. person selling or transporting those weapons to the cartel or any [other] designated targets, you can be fined civilly and criminally prosecuted, or both."

Julie L. Myers, a former Justice Department official who led Immigration and Customs Enforcement until last fall, said kingpin designations have been powerful tools against Colombian drug cartels, in some cases persuading defendants to agree to plea deals to protect family assets.