MEXICO CITY: A Mexican Supreme Court ruling giving the country's finance agencies automatic access to citizens' and companies' banking information sparked outrage on Thursday (May 12) from privacy advocates and others.
The court decision came after a businessman accused the Finance Ministry of infringing on his constitutional right to privacy for requesting bank documents over tax fraud suspicions.
Four of the chamber's five magistrates voted on Wednesday in favor of giving tax and finance authorities sweeping visibility over citizens' bank information, removing the need for a warrant. They argued that individuals' right to bank privacy was secondary to anti-money laundering efforts and combating tax fraud.
Jesus Zambrano, a prominent leftist Mexican politician, tweeted that his party, the PRD, was concerned that the decision was a "possible violation and transgression of millions of Mexicans."
He added that the ruling was "fiscal terrorism," and said he rejected the attempt to "squeeze taxpayers".
Mexican billionaire Ricardo Salinas in a tweet called the ruling "madness," and encouraged the court to reconsider.
Historically, tax authorities required a court order to investigate those under suspicion, in an effort to prevent arbitrary targeting.
The decision will come as a victory for Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, who has been a vocal advocate of tax agencies' getting tougher on big companies
Margarita Rios-Farjat, Mexico's minister for the Supreme Court, said in a local radio interview on Wednesday that the new powers would be carefully applied. She said it could encourage people to be more diligent in their tax declarations, and stressed that authorities would not have direct access to accounts or the ability to seize funds.
The ruling follows the Supreme Court's rejection last month of a proposed biometric registry of cell phone users. The judges ruled that forcing users to register their data would be a violation of human rights and privacy.