MEXICO CITY, May 29 (Reuters) - Mexico could slap a $90 million fine on those involved in an undeclared shipment of $450 million from the United States to Mexico last year although the funds do not appear to be of illicit origin, Mexican tax officials said.
In October, Mexico's tax authority SAT said it had detected a package containing bearer negotiable instruments (BNI) worth $450 million from an American company to a Mexican firm with a global presence in the central city of Toluca.
Anyone bringing more than $10,000 into Mexico without declaring it can be fined, which in this case would be about $92 million, according to experts at the tax authority.
BNIs are a good way to smuggle money because they are far less bulky than cash and hard to trace to their owner.
At the time, authorities believed the massive transfer was probably related to tax evasion or money-laundering.
But Mexico's tax chief Osvaldo Santin said an investigation into the seizure showed that the money was clean.
SAT has not revealed the names of the companies.
"We have already determined that it was legal in origin...so there is no money laundering crime," Santin told Reuters in an interview. "We're now determining if a fine is applicable."
He referred to the BNIs as a kind of promissory note and said the package was still in SAT's possession.
SAT's top customs official, Ricardo Trevino, said in a separate interview the transaction was between two financial firms and that a resolution must be reached by August.
If levied, the fine would be about 1.7 billion pesos, said Trevino, or about $92 million at current exchange rates. "Both parties have come forward and have given us their explanation of the operation. It's a process that's under investigation."
($1 = 18.5050 Mexican pesos) (Reporting by Alexandra Alper and Noe Torres)