El Espectador, Colombia
By Oscar Guardiola-Rivera
Translated By Marie Winnick
9 October 2012
Edited by Jane Lee
Colombia - El Espectador - Original Article (Spanish)
A few days ago, Irish journalist Ed Vulliamy declared that “the responsibility for the deaths of journalists and the suffering of the Mexican people falls directly on the financial sector of London and Wall Street.”* This statement, made during the presentation of his book [Amexica] in the Mexican state of Veracruz, raised a real clamor.
It’s no wonder. After more than two years, the result of his investigative journalism along the Mexican-American border has confirmed what many had been suspecting. From the start of the 2008 financial crisis, if not before, the banks have intensified their involvement in the laundering of enormous quantities of money associated with drug trafficking.
Vulliamy presented evidence from two specific cases. One was from Wachovia. This U.S. bank, with branches in major American cities, was fined for not monitoring the entry of billions of dollars into these branches. The money had come from currency exchanges on the southern border. The fine, although in millions, did not represent more than a fraction of the quantity of money deposited by the financial institution. “Not even one criminal case has been opened. Nobody will go to prison,” Ed told me.* “Meanwhile, thousands of women will be murdered along the border, the corruption will worsen and the recently elected PRI [Institutional Revolutionary Party] administration will try to reinstate the pax mafiosa, as they have in the past.”*
The second case, less known though more scandalous, involves the British bank HSBC. The self-identified “global bank” has advertisements that adorn the corridors of the entrance to Heathrow Airport in London. It was found guilty of turning a blind eye to the billions of dollars that had been entering its branches on Wall Street, coming from Mexico through their Caribbean office. This office is a virtual point. With no officials, its function seems to be to serve as the intermediary point for the transport of tons of cash.
Once more, the bank was limited to paying a relatively insignificant penalty. Its officials, meanwhile, made life miserable for the witness who pointed out the irregularities in the controls over money coming in. The witness was an official hired by the bank itself to strengthen its anti-money laundering controls.
In a press release, HSBC claimed to have “learned to work alongside the U.S. Department of State, in a manner so that in the future these types of irregularities do not occur again.”*
When someone is caught with contraband on the border, the penalty can be up to 15 years in prison. In return, those who deposit billions of dollars that are the profits of murder and corruption get off with a slap on the wrist. “What about the CEO of HSBC?” asked Ed. “They named him trade minister.”*
*Editor’s Note: The original quotation, accurately translated, could not be verified.
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