Rabobank complicit in Mexican drug cartels' crimes: lawyer
Criminal lawyer Goran Sluiter filed charges against Rabobank on Thursday accusing the bank's executives of complicity in murder and other crimes committed by Mexican drug cartels. This follows an investigation by the United States judiciary into a Rabobank subsidiary suspected of laundering Mexican drug profits, the Volkskrant reports.
Sluiter doesn't want Rabobank only prosecuted for money laundering, but also the consequences it has for the Mexican population, he said to the newspaper. Money laundering is a crime with victims. Drug organizations are extremely violent and money laundering is critical for their functioning. Thanks to banks who give them room for it, they can invest the millions of profits back into their criminal operations." He believes Rabobank can be found guilty for involvement in a criminal organization.
The Dutch lawyer is representing Fernando Hernandez, a Mexican living in the Netherlands. Fernandez is pressing charges along with SMX Collective - an organization dedicated to human rights in Mexico. According to him, financial institutions like Rabobank play a key role in the success of drug cartels. He asks that the bank be prosecuted both as an institution, and that its executives be prosecuted for complicity in murder and crimes against humanity.
The United States authorities is in the midst of a years long investigation into money laundering by Rabobank N.A., a subsidiary of Rabobank. The investigation focuses on a now closed branch in Calexico, a small town on the border with Mexico. Mexicali, the city on the Mexican side of the border, is controlled by the Sinaloa drug cartel. The region is known for its flourishing drug trade, according to the newspaper. The U.S. authorities believe that the drug cartel launders its money through Rabobank N.A.
Sluiter and his clients decided to press charges in the Netherlands without first awaiting the results of the U.S. investigation. Sluiter explains this decision by referring to the so-called Libor case, in which Rabobank paid a 774 million dollar fine for manipulating interest rates. "Then it was also tried to start a criminal investigation in the Netherlands", the lawyer said to the Volkskrant. "That request was rejected because too much investigation was already done and because there were criminal defects stuck to that other investigation. This time we will not wait too long."
"Rabobank must have known about the presence of drug cartels, yet they kept their eyes closed", Sluiter said. "By money laundering with that knowledge, the bank is participating in a criminal organization.
Rabobank N.A was reprimanded by federal authorities several times in the past for its lack of effort in preventing money laundering. Employees are suspected of deliberately withholding documents from investigators and of failing to report suspicious transactions.
"Rabobank is fully cooperating with the investigation and will make no substantive comment on it", spokesperson Hendrik-Jan Eijpe said. He stressed that Rabobank N.A. has tightened its control procedures. "We have done our utmost to take good measures and believe that we now meet the right conditions in the operations of our subsidiary. We hope to leave this thing of the past quickly behind us." He would not comment on whether the bank was aware of the presence of drug cartels in Calexico.