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Lift-off for Mexico? Crime and finance in money laundering governance structures

Timo Behrens (SFB 700 – Governance in Areas of Limited Statehood, German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP), Berlin, Germany)

Journal of Money Laundering Control

ISSN: 1368-5201

Article publication date: 5 January 2015




The purpose of this article is to analyse Mexico’s money laundering governance with a focus on its 2007-2013 reform process. It provides a view of money laundering governance as a politically contested policy area and a reflection on the reach and purpose of the international regime promoted by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF).


The analysis uses an actor-centred approach on governance structures relating groups of public and private actors with competing policy preferences.


Three ideal-typical groups of actors are identified. Of these, the Financial Integrity and Criminal Enforcement Groups were central proponents of prevention- and prosecution-based policies, respectively. While criminal enforcement was initially sidelined, its role was strengthened in Mexico since 2007. Despite early signs of success, diverging policy preferences between these groups continue to complicate money laundering governance in Mexico through a complex distribution of tasks between them.

Practical implications

To address wider crime fighting concerns, more emphasis should be put on the role of prosecutorial actors in money laundering governance. Beyond the domestic level, the results raise concerns about the increasing focus of the FATF on money laundering as a threat to financial integrity.


The article adds to a better understanding of money laundering governance in Mexico. Further, the presented systematisation of actors can inform the analyses of money laundering governance and underlying political tensions in other country cases. By focusing on organised crime and prosecution, the case deviates from the international trend to concentrate on issues of market integrity and prevention-orientated policies.



The article is based on research carried out in the project “Security Governance in Latin America” which forms part of the Collaborative Research Center SFB 700 “Governance in Areas of Limited Statehood” based at the Freie Universität Berlin. The author is grateful for the helpful discussions with his colleagues at the SFB 700 and the German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP). The author also thanks Markus Lederer and John Bailey for their input on an earlier draft of the article.

The views expressed herein are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations.


Behrens, T. (2015), "Lift-off for Mexico? Crime and finance in money laundering governance structures", Journal of Money Laundering Control, Vol. 18 No. 1, pp. 17-33.



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