(Boomberg) [...] Wachovia had made a habit of helping move money for Mexican drug smugglers. Wells Fargo &Co, which bought Wachovia in 2008, has admitted in court that its unit failed to monitor and report suspected money laundering by narcotics traffickers -- including the cash used to buy four planes that shipped a total of 22 tons of cocaine.The full report also mentions BofA, Western Union, American Express, and several european banks such as Santander.
Wachovia admitted it didn’t do enough to spot illicit funds in handling $378.4 billion for Mexican-currency-exchange houses from 2004 to 2007. That’s the largest violation of the Bank Secrecy Act, an anti-money-laundering law, in U.S. history -- a sum equal to one-third of Mexico’s current gross domestic product.
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 -- enough to cover health care for 30.9 million Americans -- 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.
Miami-based American Express Bank International paid fines in both 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.
HSBC has stopped accepting dollar deposits in Mexico, and Citigroup no longer allows noncustomers to change dollars there. Citigroup detected suspicious activity in the Tijuana accounts, reported it to regulators and closed the accounts, Citigroup spokesman Paulo Carreno says.
No bank has been more closely connected with Mexican money laundering than Wachovia. [...]
As Wachovia’s balance sheet was bleeding, its legal woes were mounting. In the three years leading up to Wachovia’s agreement with the Justice Department, grand juries served the bank with 6,700 subpoenas requesting information.
The bank didn’t react quickly enough to the prosecutors’ requests and failed to hire enough investigators, the U.S. Treasury Department said in March. After a 22-month investigation, the Justice Department on March 12 charged Wachovia with violating the Bank Secrecy Act by failing to run an effective anti-money-laundering program.
Five days later, Wells Fargo promised in a Miami federal courtroom to revamp its detection systems. Wachovia’s new owner paid $160 million in fines and penalties, less than 2 percent of its $12.3 billion profit in 2009.
The bank declined to answer specific questions, including how much it made by handling $378.4 billion -- including $4 billion of cash-from Mexican exchange companies.
The 1970 Bank Secrecy Act requires banks to report all cash transactions above $10,000 to regulators and to tell the government about other suspected money-laundering activity.
Wachovia ignored warnings by regulators and police, according to the deferred-prosecution agreement.
“As early as 2004, Wachovia understood the risk,” the bank admitted in court. “Despite these warnings, Wachovia remained in the business.”
“Wachovia handled all the transfers, and they never reported any as suspicious,” says Jose Luis Marmolejo, a former head of the Mexican attorney general’s financial crimes unit who is now in private practice.
“I am sure Wachovia knew what was going on,” says Marmolejo, who oversaw the criminal investigation into Wachovia’s customers. “It went on too long and they made too much money not to have known.”
At Wachovia’s anti-money-laundering unit in London, Woods and his colleague Jim DeFazio, in Charlotte, say they suspected that drug dealers were using the bank to move funds.
Woods, a former Scotland Yard investigator, spotted illegible signatures and other suspicious markings on traveler’s checks from Mexican exchange companies, he said in a September 2008 letter to the U.K. Financial Services Authority. He sent copies of the letter to the DEA and Treasury Department in the U.S.
Woods, 45, says his bosses instructed him to keep quiet and tried to have him fired, according to his letter to the FSA. In one meeting, a bank official insisted Woods shouldn’t have filed suspicious activity reports to the government, as both U.S. and U.K. laws require.
“I think they looked at the money and said, ‘The hell with it. We’re going to bring it in, and look at all the money we’ll make,’” DeFazio says.
Wachovia (now part of Wells Fargo) was laundering hundreds of billions of mexican cocaine drug dealers dollars
Were are the criminal charges? Whe're the massive and exemplar fine?