Rabobank to pay $369 million settlement on Mexican drug money laundering charges

Rabobank agreed to pay 369 million dollars, around 300 million euros, to settle allegations that its California subsidiary Rabobank National Association (RNA) lied to regulators investigating charges of Mexican drug money laundering. According to the settlement, RNA does not dispute that it accepted at least 369 million dollars in money illegally gained from drug trafficking and other activity between 2009 and 2012, American news agency Fox News reports.

RNA also acknowledged that it lied to regulators when they started asking questions about these transactions in 2013, thereby pleading guilty to one count of "conspiracy to defraud the United States", according to the news agency. The settlement agreement states that Rabobank will cooperate with the investigation, and that the U.S. federal government will not seek additional criminal charges against the bank. 

"Settling these matters is important for the bank's mission here in California", Mark Borecco, CEO of RNA, said to Fox News. 

The Rabobank branches in Celexico and Tecate, two towns along the border between Mexico and California, saw their accounts increase by over 20 percent after Mexico implemented limits on cash deposits at the country's bank in 2010, the settlement reads, according to Fox News. This crackdown resulted in more dubious deposits at the Rabobank branches in the border towns.

The bank officials knew that the money may be tied to organized crime and drug trafficking. In 2012 a whistleblower informed two of three unnamed executives mentioned in the settlement agreement about suspicious activity. She also raised concerns with the bank's executive management group and regulators. She was dismissed in July 2013. 

"The cartels probably thought these were sleepy towns, no one's going to notice", Dave Shaw, head of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's Homeland Security Investigations in San Diego, said to the news agency. "When you bring in $400 million, someone is going to notice. The bank should have known and they just chose not to report any suspicions activity."

Last year lawyer Goran Sluiter, acting on behalf of Fernando Hernandez, a Mexican living in the Netherlands, also filed charges against Rabobank, accusing the bank of complicity in crimes committed by Mexican drug cartels. Sluiter doesn't want Rabobank only prosecuted for money laundering, but also the consequences it has for the Mexican population.


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