Goddard talks about his recent meeting with Mexican officials to help fight border crime.
Ted Simons: Good evening and welcome to "Horizon." I'm Ted Simons. Arizona attorney general Terry Goddard is back in the country after meeting with top law enforcements official in Mexico this week. They discussed a variety of issues including a $94 million settlement with Western Union to help fight border crimes. I spoke with the attorney general about his trip. Thanks for joining us. Trip to Mexico. Improving cooperation with Mexico to fight drug cartels basically?
Terry Goddard: In a nutshell, that's why I was there. To meet with the new attorney general, Arturo Chavez Chavez. Who we had a good relationship with his predecessor and I was about to go to Mexico City in December to meet with the previous attorney general, when he got removed from the office and sent to England as an ambassador so now there's a new guy in town and I had to meet with him to raise the level of coordinate between our law enforcement agencies and theirs. And, you know, I hate to have to go back through these steps but this time, I think we really made some -- a very significant progress.
Ted Simons: I want to get to the progress in a second, but from what you saw and what you've been hearing and seeing, and we've had people on the show saying Mexico is teetering to being a NARCO state.
Terry Goddard: I don't believe that yet, but there's that possibility. I believe what the president has done in taking on the cartels with military action and changing his entire judicial system and by changing basically the way Mexico does business is a tremendously heroic action and I applaud him but unfortunately, we've also seen where the hard actions have come to grief and Juarez is a national, international exposition of what happens when the narco terrorists take over a community.
Ted Simons: And Juarez, they're emptying out of that city.
Terry Goddard: The news when I was in Mexico City, as many as 500,000 people have fled the city. 50,000 businesses have closed. 116,000 houses are vacant. This is a tragic situation and my concern is that that contamination, which is caused by the war between the various cartels, could, in fact, move in our direction and end up infecting know Nogales and Sonora and we're seeing a high level of violence south of the border and I believe it's in our interest to do everything we can to fight against the cartels.
Ted Simons: With that in mind, some of the progress you made with law enforcement in Mexico. Talk to us about this. It involves from tracking didn't suspects to tracking down witness who is cross the border, correct?
Terry Goddard: Yes, we've got a variety of ongoing relationships with Mexican law enforcement. One is trying to find people who've committed crimes in Arizona that have fled to Mexico and now fugitives but we need the Mexican authorities help to find them and serve them and put them on trial. That's one area of request. And another is for smugglers who because of over-stretched law enforcement demands in the United States don't get prosecuted in the United States. So the Mexican government said they will prosecute them. We're trying to find a procedure where they can be returned to Mexico and face trial. But the most important thing by far and the one that I thought the new attorney general responded to very positively, was to fight money laundering, that's the illegal movement of huge amounts of money from the United States to Mexico and that's what feeds the cartel and that's what makes this border so violent right now.
Ted Simons: With money laundering and also tracking down suspects and witnesses, were you not getting the cooperation you wanted in the past?
Terry Goddard: Well we're a state. I represent the state of Arizona with the country of Mexico and that's sort of a -- not a relationship of equals. And as a result, we weren't getting through in many instances. This trip was by far, the highest level of Mexican officials I have had the opportunity to meet with. We met with not only the attorney general but the head of the federal police which has a tremendous separate jurisdiction and we met with members of congress and I addressed one of the border security committees in congress in the Mexican assembly. And I feel this time we made significant progress at every level. Police, prosecution and the political side because they're trying in congress to adopt stricter regulations similar to what we have, so they can seize criminal assets.
Ted Simons: And you mentioned money laundering and such. Talk about the western union settlement. $94 million agreement with western union. This -- again, sharing information, now, with Mexico, with other states regarding folks who use money laundering techniques through western union?
Terry Goddard: Absolutely, and one of the things that was a door-opener in this visit to Mexico, we have in hand, the settlement with western union which make it is possible to access significant data about money that's moving across the border. That, I believe, will allow our law enforcement officers to pinpoint those agents and agencies behaving in a corrupt manner and if they happen to be in the United States, we can take action, but if they're in Mexico, I now have the assurance of the Mexican government they'll use that information to shut them down. Because they feel it's a national priority because of what you referred to before. Because of this war they have with the cartels. It's a national priority to try to stop the flow of money.
Ted Simons: Describe quickly if you could, how people use western union or we hoped used western union, to get money back and forth.
Terry Goddard: Let me emphasize, it's one of the ways.
Ted Simons: Sure.
Terry Goddard: There are as many ways as a man-to-man can devise to move money across the border. That keeps the cartel going. They don't love this work. They're not passionate cause people. They do it because it's profitable. And if we can take out the profit, we can make the strongest attack on the violence they're creating. What western union has done and I believe it is in the past, but unfortunately, they've -- with millions of legitimate transaction, I really want to emphasize that, we have no interest in disrupting any of the very legitimate business between nations that is handled by moneygram and western union and other wire transfer agencies. But criminals also can use this, because they depended on the fact that unless the agent is doing their job scrupulously, a criminal operative can come in and without being identified receive large amounts of money. That's what we want to crack down on and put the agents that are essentially in the pay of the cartel, out of business.
Ted Simons: And the money that Arizona received, is everything from -- what? -- reimbursement to legal costs, and what else.
Terry Goddard: Part is reimbursement of costs over the last 10 -- I'm sorry, the last four or five years we've been involved with the legal battle with western union. 10 years we've been involved with fighting money laundering. The other part, funded a interstate for western state, border states all have access to a law enforcement fund, $50 million, set up by western union, that can be drawn down over the next three years specifically to fight border crimes and that's going to help allow the states to work together and we've not been doing that well in the past and also focus on these crimes. Primarily money laundering, that's the number one reason this was set up, but it has flexibility to go into other types of activities that are criminal.
Ted Simons: And as you mentioned that's not the only way. You still have bank cards and opening and closing bank accounts.
Terry Goddard: I by no means meant to say, it's not the only way people move money around the border. An estimated $30 billion to $40 billion a year. The proceeds are being sent to the cartels by wires, and we hope to stop that, by -- excuse me, stored value cards. Like gift cards but gift cards on steroids, if you will. Big ones. And bulk cash. Cars that are apprehended stuffed with $100 bills. Every one of those helps to enrich the cartels. And we have to stop them.
Ted Simons: It's one thing to say we're going to allow Mexico to share information from western union and this business, is Mexico interested? Do you have the willingness to use this information for law enforcement?
Terry Goddard: I've had questions in the past but after this visit, I have no questions anymore. I got it from the top levels, prosecution and police enforcement. I got the kind of enthusiastic reception I was hoping for before. Now president Calderón has said we've got to stop the resources flowing into the cartels' pocketbooks and the rest of the government get it. They have the emergency of Juarez as a reminder, if they don't take action, they're going to have meltdown in other communities and they're reforming the judicial system and the prosecution system and they're trying to take it on in order to be more effective in this battle and I believe we can be a significant help.