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Western Union wins court ruling

January 11, 2007|From Bloomberg News

Western Union Co., the largest U.S. money-transfer company, said Wednesday that it had won a court ruling that bars Arizona from seizing funds sent by customers in other states to Mexico as part of a probe into drug and immigrant smuggling.

Arizona Atty. Gen. Terry Goddard obtained a warrant in September to intercept transfers of $500 or more between 28 U.S. states and 26 places in Sonora, Mexico, so he could look for criminal ties. The Superior Court in Maricopa County ruled that Arizona lacked authority over transactions from other states or enough cause to suspect wrongdoing.

Western Union, based in Englewood, Colo., had contended that the program was unconstitutional and threatened its relationship with customers. Goddard issued more than 20 seizure warrants to various money-transfer companies during his five-year probe, saying such tactics help disrupt smugglers.

"Western Union is a trusted friend of the Latino community, and we're very pleased with today's ruling," Chief Executive Christina Gold said.

The warrants forced the intended recipients of money transfers to call and talk to a police officer on a financial task force, who decided whether a transfer was legitimate.

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