Criminal gangs are “contaminating democracy” in Mexico by funding political campaigns and even buying public debt to launder their dirty money, according to Edgardo Buscaglia, one of the world’s leading experts on international organised crime.

A senior research scholar in law and economics at Columbia University and the author of the new book, Money Laundering and Political Corruption, Dr Buscaglia told The Independent that a “pact of political impunity” inhibits Mexico’s government from combating financial crime.

“There is a relationship between dirty money in politics and the inaction and paralysis of the Mexican government,” he said. “The Mexican government does not take action in the cases of businesses involved in laundering drug money or other financial crimes [because] in some cases these businesses finance political campaigns at local, state and federal level.”

The US government estimates that over £19bn in laundered money crosses the border with Mexico each year, while the non-profit think-tank Global Financial Integrity estimates that more than £34bn in illicit funds flows out of Mexico every year, the third-highest total in the world after China and Russia.

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