On October 4, 2017 the Federal Supreme Court of Justice, ruled on the Amparo action number 1214/2016, declaring the unconstitutionality of Article 115 of the Credit Institutions Law, which authorizes the Ministry of Finance to block bank accounts of taxpayers for alleged money laundering and terrorist financing operations, prior to the execution of an administrative proceeding.
The case originated when the Financial Intelligence Unit of the Ministry of Finance included the plaintiff company on the list of blocked persons, which resulted in the freeze of all the company’s accounts and a ban to open new accounts or to cancel existing accounts.
In both the Amparo action and the motion for review, the plaintiff argued that blocking accounts without prior notice violated its right to a presumption of innocence and its right to a due process of law.
In first instance, the District Court considered that these rights had not been violated by the Financial Intelligence Unit; however, in the motion for review before the Supreme Court of Justice, the District Court’s ruling was reversed and the Article 115 of the Credit Institutions Law, was deemed unconstitutional.
This is a relevant precedent in the investigation of alleged money laundering and terrorist financing operations, as it limits one of the most effective but also most discretionary tools of the Ministry of Finance in similar matters.