Secretary Statements & Remarks

Remarks by Secretary of the Treasury Janet L. Yellen at Financial Institution Leaders Roundtable in Mexico City, Mexico

As Prepared for Delivery

Good afternoon. I would like to start by expressing the Treasury Department’s appreciation to each of you for your commitment to combating illicit finance and for your financial institutions' engagement with Treasury. 

Through multiple transitions in U.S. and Mexican presidential administrations, the strong relationship between Treasury and your financial institutions, solidified through regular meetings like this one, has allowed us to discuss topics such as illicit finance typologies involving our two countries, compliance challenges you may face, concerns related to de-risking, and dollar repatriation from Mexico. 

Treasury has also worked hard to exchange operational information with banks on both sides of the border, and I know that several of the policy discussions you have had with Treasury officials and U.S. banks have informed concrete work we have done together. Most importantly, our collaboration has had a meaningful impact on preventing and reducing the flow of illicit proceeds within and between the United States and Mexico.

Going forward, we must build on this strong foundation and increase our joint efforts to target the illicit finances of transnational criminal organizations and the networks of enablers and service providers laundering money on their behalf.

The trafficking of illicit drugs—particularly fentanyl—has been and will remain a key focus of our work. Drug trafficking undermines the rule of law, threatens the health of our citizens, and poses risks to our economic and national security. By some estimates, drug trafficking alone generates nearly $100 billion a year that flows through the U.S. financial system.

As part of a broader U.S. effort to disrupt the illicit finance that sustains transnational organized crime groups and to undermine their ability to launder their ill-gotten gains through our respective financial systems, Treasury will continue to employ our sanctions authorities to cut off narco traffickers and their enablers from the U.S. and international financial systems.

As was announced earlier today, Treasury has designated 16 individuals and two entities affiliated with the Beltran Leyva Organization under our authority that allows us to designate any individual or entity that engages in activities or transactions that contribute to the global drug trade.

Since at least February 2001, the BLO has continuously imported multi-ton quantities of fentanyl, cocaine, and methamphetamine into the U.S. from Mexico. Today’s designation is the result of strong coordination between OFAC and Mexico’s financial intelligence unit, the UIF, whom I would like to personally thank.

I’ll now turn to a drug threat that has emerged over the past several years and provides drug traffickers a new revenue stream to finance their undermining of public safety in Mexico: the illicit trade in fentanyl and other synthetic opioids, their precursor chemicals, and their means of production, such as pill presses, die molds, and other manufacturing equipment.

The illicit procurement of precursor chemicals by drug trafficking organizations in Mexico presents a key challenge for our joint efforts to disrupt the trade in fentanyl. Because many of these chemicals have legitimate pharmaceutical uses, it can often be difficult for investigators to detect illicit diversion.