January 11, 2018 / 5:05 AM / 2 years ago

Head of Mexico's financial crimes unit resigns: sources

FILE PHOTO: Deputy prosecutor at the Attorney General's Office Alberto Bazbaz attends a news conference in Toluca, Mexico, March 31, 2010. REUTERS/Henry Romero/File photo

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - The head of the Mexico’s Financial Intelligence Unit, a part of the finance ministry tasked with combating and preventing money laundering, resigned on Wednesday, two sources with direct knowledge of the matter told Reuters.

The resignation of Alberto Bazbaz comes amid a seismic shift in Mexico’s political landscape ahead of a key July presidential election and follows a critical report by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), an international organization that sets global standards for fighting illicit finance.

The FATF’s report last week criticized Mexico for failing to systematically prosecute money launderers.

Bazbaz’s reasons for resigning from the position he held since 2013 were not immediately clear.

Following the FATF report, Mexico’s acting attorney general said on Thursday that prosecutors were already working to improve investigations and cooperation with other countries.

The FATF report highlighted that Mexico has been slipping in successful convictions. The country already lagged regional peers such as Colombia and Brazil, both of which have made strides in setting up independent prosecutors.

Mexico is making little headway in seizing illicit cash, according to the government’s own estimates. It seized just $32.5 million in 2016, representing less than 0.1 percent of the $58.5 billion of illicit revenues the government estimates is generated by organized crime annually.

Additional reporting by Michael O'Boyle; Editing by Michael Perry

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