Argentina's Security Minister Patricia Bullrich recently revealed the scope of drug-related money laundering in the country, as part of an attempt to push new asset seizure legislation through Congress.
"In the past five years, drug traffickers have laundered approximately $269 million," Bullrich said during a presentation before three senate committees. The security minister also cited a 2009 United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime report that stated traffickers in Argentina collectively earned approximately $1.1 billion annually, reported La Nacion.
Bullrich was trying to persuade the upper house to pass a bill that would strengthen the government's ability to seize illicitly obtained assets, according to La Nacion. The bill has already passed the lower house despite resistance from the political opposition.
The proposed legislation would allow the government to confiscate the assets of suspected traffickers even before the courts hand down a ruling.
"We are looking for a tool to strip the assets immediately, so narcos can not continue using that money to build their business," Bullrich said.
The security minister went on to say that confiscated assets would be put into government coffers to help equip security personnel and fund social projects.
InSight Crime Analysis
Bullrich's efforts to pass new asset seizure legislation suggests the administration of President Mauricio Macri is focused on targeting the finances of drug trafficking groups. Asset seizure programs can be a very useful tool for security forces looking to dismantle these criminal structures, but they are also prone to corruption and manipulation by those overseeing the assets once they are put into the government's possession.
This proposal also signals a further shift from the anti-drug policy of former President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner. Since Macri took office in December 2015, Argentina has approved a new shoot-down policy for suspected drug planes, issued a national security emergency, and signed a series of bilateral security cooperation agreements with the United States.
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Macri's tougher stance on drug trafficking comes amid growing evidence of the important role Argentina plays as a transit point and final destination for cocaine. The Anti-Drug Association of Argentina recently stated there are at least 1,500 clandestine landing strips available for drug planes to covertly enter the country.