Since 2006, more than 22,000 people have been killed in drug-related battles. Among the dead are police, soldiers, journalists and ordinary citizens. The U.S. has pledged Mexico $1.1 billion in the past two years to aid in the fight against narcotics cartels.
Behind the carnage in Mexico is an industry that supplies hundreds of tons of cocaine, heroin, marijuana and methamphetamines to Americans. The cartels have built a network of dealers in 231 U.S. cities from coast to coast, taking in about $39 billion in sales annually, according to the Justice Department.
Twenty million people in the U.S. regularly use illegal drugs, spurring street crime and wrecking families. Narcotics cost the U.S. economy $215 billion a year — in overburdened courts, prisons and hospitals and lost productivity, the department says.
"It's the banks laundering money for the cartels that finances the tragedy," says Martin Woods, director of Wachovia's anti-money-laundering unit in London from 2006 to 2009. Woods says he quit the bank in disgust after executives ignored his documentation that drug dealers were funneling money through Wachovia's branch network.
"If you don't see the correlation between the money laundering by banks and the 22,000 people killed in Mexico, you're missing the point," Woods says.
Cleansing dirty cash
Wachovia is just one of the U.S. and European banks that have been used for drug- money laundering. For the past two decades, Latin American drug traffickers have gone to U.S. banks to cleanse their dirty cash, says Paul Campo, head of the financial-crimes unit of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).
American Express Bank paid fines in 1994 and 2007 after admitting it had failed to spot and report drug dealers laundering money through its accounts. Drug traffickers used accounts at Bank of America in Oklahoma City to buy three planes that carried 10 tons of cocaine, according to Mexican court filings.
Federal agents caught people who work for Mexican cartels depositing illicit funds in Bank of America accounts in Atlanta, Chicago and Brownsville, Texas, from 2002 to 2009. Mexican drug dealers used shell companies to open accounts at London-based HSBC Holdings, an investigation by the Mexican Finance Ministry found.
Sunday, August 8, 2010
Are American Banks Helping Do the Laundry?
Full Article at available from Seattle Times here: