Tuesday, April 5, 2011
One of the largest banks in the United States — Wachovia, laundered a staggering $378.4 billion dollars of drug cartel cash, a sum equivalent to one-third of Mexico’s GDP.
In a story largely ignored by the U.S. corporate media, a 22-month investigation by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, the Internal Revenue Service and others, a picture emerges of cocaine smugglers who had bought a DC-9 jetliner with money they had laundered through Wachovia Bank, now part of the Wells Fargo.
The UK Guardian reports:
On April 10, 2006, a DC-9 landed in the port city of Ciudad del Carmen, on the Gulf of Mexico as the sun was setting. Mexican soldiers, waiting to intercept it, found 128 cases packed with 5.7 tons of cocaine, valued at $100 million dollars. But something else – more important and far-reaching, was discovered in the paper trail behind the purchase of the plane by the Sinaloa narco-trafficking cartel.
The authorities uncovered billions of dollars in wire transfers, traveller’s cheques and cash shipments through Mexican exchanges into Wachovia accounts. Wachovia was placed under immediate investigation for failing to maintain an effective anti-money laundering program. Of special significance was laundering operation began in 2004 which coincided with the first major escalation of violence along the US-Mexico border that ignited the current drug cartel war.
Criminal proceedings were brought against Wachovia Bank, though not against any individual. But the case never came to court. In March 2010, Wachovia settled the biggest action brought under the U.S. Bank Secrecy Act, through the U.S. district court in Miami. However, now that the year’s “deferred prosecution” has expired, the Wachovia Bank is, in effect, in the clear. It paid Federal authorities $110 million in forfeiture, for allowing transactions later proved to be connected to illegal drug smuggling, and incurred a $50 million dollar fine for failing to monitor cash used to ship 22 tons of cocaine.
Jeffrey Sloman, a Federal prosecutor involved in the investigation said:
“Wachovia’s blatant disregard for our banking laws gave international cocaine cartels a virtual carte blanche to finance their operations.”
Wachovia Bank was acquired by Wells Fargo during the 2008 financial crash, just as Wells Fargo became a beneficiary of $25 billion in U.S. taxpayers bailout money.
The Mexican drug cartels have become increasingly powerful since the end of Colombia’s Cali and Medellin cartels in the 1990s and now dominate the wholesale illegal drug market in the United States. Between December 2006 and March 2011, an estimated 36,226 Mexicans have been killed in escalating drug cartel violence.