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A word about banks and the laundering of drug money

I just wanted to write a quick note about HSBC and money laundering.

When we hear of a bank caught money laundering there is a tendency, gently encouraged I think, by the banks and the media, to think of it as we would if we heard of someone in our street having been caught fencing stolen goods.  We would think – ‘Ah, so there is the crook among us’, and by unspoken extension assume that since he’s the crook the rest of us aren’t.  Not unreasonable when dealing with people, but entirely misplaced when thinking of banks.

That might seem a rather sweeping generalization but it isn’t.  The drugs business is huge and mostly in our countries. The drug producing nations are relatively minor players in the financial side of the drug business. Most of the drug money is made , moved and stored/banked/invested outside the producing countries but inside ours.

Latest official figures estimate,

 In the 2005 World Drugs Report the UNODC put the value [of the global drug trade] at US$13bn at production level, $94bn at wholesale level and US$332bn based upon retail prices.

The critical thing to note here is not the figures, large as they are, but the careful break down of the trade into production, wholesale and retail. There is the tendency in the news and newspapers to talk just about ‘the drug trade’. This piece of laziness is useful because it conjures up pictures of Mexican murders and Colombian jungles.  Rather than what it should conjure up, images of smart bankers in London and New York.

Let’s look at the breakdown more carefully. Production is the third world part of the trade. It is also the smallest by far. It is the total money involved in making the stuff, paying the farmers and processors as well as those who begin the shipment towards the export centres and, of course those who have to be paid off to make sure the war on drugs is never won. Only a part of that $13 billion is actual profit. But it is still13 billion which is far too big to stuff under any mattress. So we can be sure that the bulk of those billions is banked.

That means in the producing nations there must be businesses willing to accept the drug money (Casinos are a favourite) , a network of businesses who will provide services and products such as cellophane and cardboard suppliers, trucks and boat rental companies, a whole range of  import/export companies and, of course,  all those up-market professionals like accountants who work in them. Whenever I go to Lima I laugh at the sheer brazenness of streets where for every casino there is a bank just across from it.

Like any commodity, once the drugs make their way to the export centres they move from Production to Wholesale. At some point a wholesaler, who has deep pockets, the ability to store and move the product and contacts in retail, gets involved. Of course this may be part of the same business empire that also produces the stuff. Many businesses are vertically integrated. But it is worth still making the distinction, not only because different people and services come in to play but also because a different set of financial institutions must be called upon.

Once the drugs move countries local banks are of no use. The business now needs the services of international banks who can transfer money across the world and into banks in other nations. Needless to say these banks tend to be big banks – our banks. So to give an example, cocaine produced in Peru will first use local banks. They will be banks with local branches such as Banco de Crédito del Perú and BBVA Continental. Some of you may read that last name and be thinking, ‘That’s not a local bank that’s a Spanish bank’. I know, I know, bear with me. We’ll come back to them soon.

Once we get to the export centre we have new expenses and business to conduct. We need to charter planes and boats. Remember at this point we’re not yet importing in to the retail network inside the US and Europe. We are transferring the drugs from the producer nation into the wholesale transport routes. For Peruvian cocaine much of this now goes through Brazil and Venezuela and then over to Africa’s West coast. That coast, from Mauritania down to Togo, is a perfect drug route because it is close to S. America, thus smaller planes can make the crossing, has little coastal policing and is by and large an area where the three currencies of dollars, drugs and violence are all accepted as payment. As The Globe and Mail reported earlier this year,

An investigation by the United Nations drug-control agency has estimated that up to 2,200 pounds of cocaine is flown into Guinea-Bissau every night, and more arrives by sea. About 50 drug lords from Colombia are based in Guinea-Bissau, controlling the cocaine trade and bribing the military and politicians to protect it, the UN investigation found.

Across the region, an estimated 50 tons of cocaine is transported through West Africa every year, mostly from Colombia and Venezuela, destined for the lucrative street trade in Europe.

The report continued,

Another key drug route is northern Mali,…The smugglers in Mali transport huge quantities of drugs through the Sahara desert and eventually to Mediterranean ports, where they are shipped to Europe.

The most dramatic sign of the Sahara smuggling route was the discovery of a burned-out wreck of a Boeing 727 jet airplane in a remote corner of northern Mali in 2009.

According to UN officials, the Boeing carried a cargo of cocaine and other illegal goods from Venezuela. Its crew landed it on a makeshift runway in Mali’s desert, and then unloaded as much as 10 tonnes of cocaine. After the plane was emptied, the traffickers apparently set it on fire, either because it was damaged or because it wasn’t needed any more.

That is wholesale, ‘drug style’. It requires big money, which in turn requires big banks. You cannot rent or buy a jet with cash. You have to have a business which can deal with such things as permits, maintenance and fuel companies. That business, even if it doesn’t have an office, will need a bank account.

When you are in Lima and your client in is Guinea-Bissau, you don’t exchange paper bags of greasy cash. You arrange bank transfers. Which means a smart, well educated man in an air conditioned office has to know that, in Guinea-Bissau there is someone who needs to pay another someone in Lima or Venezuela many millions of dollars or Euros. What does he think? A large rental of deck chairs in a holiday resort? I don’t think so.

That banker will then be asked to move that money from Guinea-Bissau to some where else. Probably to some other bank.

So who are the banks of Africa’s west coast? Well Portugal has a big presence in Angola. The President, his friends and his daughter own and run most of the banking sector as I wrote about in The Eurofiscal Corruption Contest – The Portuguese Entry. France too has a certain presence in the Francophone countries. A more recent and interesting player is Ecobank. Now, it is not the done thing to ever point a finger at Ecobank because it is the only pan African bank run by Africans and as such is seen as a shining example of Africans asserting their independence and struggling to give Africa what it deserves, its own financial muscle. And I agree with all of that in principle. But a bank run by Africans is no more nor less likely to be targeted by criminals, and to harbour its own criminals, than a western bank.

EcoBank operates in 30 nations in Africa with a very heavy presence on the West coast from Mali to Togo. But it is not all African. Its largest shareholder, holding nearly 19% of the bank, is a financial vehicle registered, I think, in South Africa, created and run by Renaissance Direct Investment. Renaissance Direct Investment is part of the Renaissance Group . Renaissance Group is a Russian company, which prides itself on being a leading, if not the, leading investment company in Africa, but which is run, half and half, by Russians and White Westerners.  Not that being white or  a westerner is a crime. But nevertheless Renaissance, a Russian investment bank, owns 19% of EcoBank. Again not a crime.

Ecobank is a major presence in all the countries where one of the largest sources of cash is Drug money. (The other in those countries is oil.) And that cash money must be banked somewhere. Cash is NOT put in bags and transported to Europe. It is banked where the drugs land. And remember the wholesale slice of the global drug trade is estimated at $94  Billion a large slice of which flows through Ecobank’s patch.

So, for the lawyers who may be reading, let me be very clear I am not accusing Ecobank of any wrong-doing at all. I am merely noting that a vast amount of drug money is around in the nations where Ecobank among others (such as the Angolan/Portuguese banks) operate. It could be that despite doing business in a river of dirty money not one single cent of it passes into Ecobank. This would be much the same argument as was put to me many years ago when I visited the City Police anti-money laundering division in the City of London who told me with absolutely straight faces that despite London being the centre of international banking, not a single penny of laundered or drug money entered the City banks. I kid you not that is what they said to me. I asked them if they thought I was on day release from a special needs school. They did not laugh.

Now when we left the drugs, they were in Guinea-Bissau and the money was banked in whatever banks were on hand with large enough operations to be able to handle the amounts.  Now, the drugs are put on lorries and moved north across the Sahara. The money needs to be moved through shell companies and either invested in lucrative African developments, or shifted to some more ‘respectable’ financial centre where more investment opportunities are on offer.

The drugs will head to the coast of the Med. One popular route is up to the Spanish enclaves of Ceuta and Mellilo which I wrote about in Money Laundering and Drugs in Romania and Spain. These enclaves are small, cause all sorts of immigration troubles for Spain, make a mockery of the Spanish government’s righteous indignation over Gibraltar, but are held on to tenaciously. Why? Well a clue might be that they are stuffed with branches of Spain’s major banks all offering funds transfer and private banking services in a place where nearly all the actual residents are dirt poor. So whose money are the banks banking? Who in Ceuta or Mellio has so much spare cash that their money needs ‘transferring’? And who feels the need for ‘private wealth management services’?  I don’t know, but the bankers in those places, in those ‘respectable banks’, do. They speak to the mystery people who have all the cash that needs banking, meet them, shake their hands and bank their money, knowing what that money is. And their colleagues across in Europe accept it in turn and mix it safely in to the world of European banking and finance.

In a liquidity crisis a cash business is the kind you want to attract to your bank. And drugs are the largest cash business in the world.

BBVA and Santander are the big Spanish banks and BBVA has appeared already in this story, back in Lima.  Funny that.  While Santander and BBVA also have large operations in …Mexico. No drug connection there I can think of. Except, of course, that both Citi and Wachovia laundered very large amounts of drug money in Mexico. How could I forget. See also Money Laundering and the Moral World of Bankers. And then of course there is HSBC.

Now we are on the subject of properly Western banks lets move finally to retail. The retail end of the global drug trade is by far the largest, at an estimated $332 billion.  Billion with a B. Now given that no one pays for their drugs on their Visa card, most if not all of this is cash. As the money moves up the chain the piles of cash become too large, plus, what the drug businesses want to do with all this money, is also too ‘legit’ for cash to be an option. So ALL of it has to be banked one way or another. Trunks of cash are not exported from the UK back to Lima. Nor is there a river of cash flowing from America to Colombia or Mexico. Some? yes. Much? No. The rest get’s washed in London and New York. And the people who do it are criminals.

They are also very wealthy, very arrogant, and they have friends in government , the police and the judiciary.

Up and down the UK, cash businesses are guilty, every day of accepting drug money in to their cash earnings, banked as their own profits and then ‘paid’ back to the drug pushers minus a percentage. Up and down the country banks accept large cash deposits from pizza shops which are doing unbelievably good business. No one asks. Where there are slot machines or casinos there is money laundering.  Where there is gambling and betting there is money laundering. Accountants launder. Lawyers launder. All of them? Of course not. Enough of them to suggest an endemic culture of criminality in those professions? I belive so and so do others (Take a look at various publications by Prof. Prem Sikka).

A report published by the Home Office in 2006 estimated the UK drugs market to be worth £4.645bn in 2003/4. Most of that £4.6 billion had to have been banked. Not just in one year, but that amount EVERY year. Year after year. That bit does not get talked about so much. £4.6 Billion a year is more than a rogue teller or two. When we get to retail in the West we are NOT just talking about banking a fist full of tenners from a dirty looking user/pusher. We are talking about the people the pushers work for, the people they in turn work for and the businesses that they ‘work for’ or own, which then use that money for ‘legit’ investments, such as buying luxury property in London.

When it was found that Citi had been laundering Mexican drug money, it also revealed how the brother of the then President Salinas, had a private banking agreement with Citi. When the shit hit the fan that banker, Amy Elliot, told her colleagues,

…this goes in the very, very top of the corporation, this was known…on the very top. We are little pawns in this whole thing”

What did Citi do for Salinas? According to the official US government report into the ‘affair’,

Mr. Salinas was able to transfer $90 million to $100 million between 1992 and 1994 by using a private banking relationship formed by Citibank New York in 1992.

The funds were transferred through Citibank Mexico and Citibank New York to private banking investment accounts in Citibank London and Citibank Switzerland. Beginning in mid-1992, Citibank actions assisted Mr. Salinas with these transfers and effectively disguised the funds’ source and destination, thus breaking the funds’ paper trail. Citibank.

More specifically Citi,

• set up an offshore private investment company named Trocca, to hold Mr. Salinas’s assets, through Cititrust (Cayman)9 and investment accounts in Citibank London and Citibank Switzerland;

• waived bank references for Mr. Salinas and did not prepare a financial profile on him or request a waiver for the profile, as required by then Citibank know your customer policy;

• facilitated Mrs. Salinas’s use of another name to initiate fund transfers in Mexico; and

• had funds wired from Citibank Mexico to a Citibank New Yorkconcentration account—a business account that commingles funds from various sources—before forwarding them to Trocca’s offshore Citibank investment accounts.

Know your customer, anti money-laundering requirements?  Don’t make me laugh.

These are the sorts of things that the Spanish Banks and the Portuguese banks and Ecobank, IF they were laundering money, would do for any clients of theirs. Have they?  I have no idea.  Wachovia did. Citi did. HSBC did.

The reality is that drugs are a massive banking business. And it is also a fact that the bulk of that business is done in the industrial nations, in their banks, NOT in the drug producing nations.  The Drugs business is mostly a western business. It’s a banking busness. Not unlike global mining where the mines are in the third world but the mining companies are listed and work in London.

A recent study on the Colombian drug trade reported in The Guardian found

 …that 2.6% of the total street value of cocaine produced remains within the country, while a staggering 97.4% of profits are reaped by criminal syndicates, and laundered by banks, in first-world consuming countries.

If that study is anywhere near accurate then the fact is the drug business is our business. We, the rich West, use it, we finance it, we provide the laundering services for it, and we then use the money it generates to feed the financial system. That money keeps our banks going, especially in ‘hard times. That money is what is used by the financial industry to speculate with, to buy up sovereign assets with, to speculate on food with. That money helps create their bonuses and pays off our politicians in ‘soft donations’ and ‘access to decision makers’.

The drug money laundering business is a staple and important part of global banking. Money laundering is one of the things bankers do well. They should, they practice every day. It is not a one off rogue teller or rogue ofice. It is not something the bank does once and never again. Amex did it many times. HSBC has a history.  You only have to go back to the murkey and bloody AGIP affair to find the same names and the same widespread conspiracy to commit financial and legal crimes. Dig deep enough and you’ll find the names of politicians, senior ones and find yourself meeting some of the people who make sure the truth of such matters does not come out and whose job it is to protect the guilty and do their dirty work.

Drug money, criminal at the start of its journey, is still crminal at its ‘respectsble’ end. Drug Money is criminal and dirty no matter how many times it is laundered, by no matter how many banks. The bankers know this better than anyone. Yet they do it every day, every week, every year and every decade in every major financial centre and everyone knows it.

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52 Responses to A word about banks and the laundering of drug money

  1. Pat Flannery August 18, 2012 at 4:23 pm #

    Wow! Then the western governments have a big stake in the sale of drugs and the creation of addicts. Their banks depend on it and they must keep their banks solvent. Talk about moral hazard ….

    • The Healthy Skpetik October 30, 2012 at 5:09 pm #

      This why any drugs listed in any schedule under the UN Single Convention on Narcotics will not be ‘legalised’ or ‘decriminalised’ by those signatory countries.

  2. Chris August 18, 2012 at 5:46 pm #

    Absolutely first class piece, thank you David.

  3. Rob Pickford August 18, 2012 at 8:27 pm #

    I’m a truck driver in the U.S. If I were caught hauling a truckload of hash or coke, or hard cash, I suspect it would be the very last light of day I would ever see. Do I detect an inequity here…? Hang on, while I grab my torch and pitchfork…
    But, yes, an excellent piece. Thanks.

  4. bill40 August 18, 2012 at 9:01 pm #


    Thank God you are back and doing what only you seem able to do. All I ask is that the truth is told to power. Needless to say in China your blog is blocked but doesn’t effect me as I use the same VPN’s as the powers that be.

    Mrs40 translates and spreads your blogs so you have a following in China you may not be aware of. One rogue from Dadong was recently jailed for suggesting that Chinese banks be rated according to reception of drug money. I have no links because it was never reported.

    Keep up the sterling work.

    • Phil August 20, 2012 at 11:31 pm #

      Tell truth to power, Bill? They already know.

      That’s the problem.

  5. Jay D August 18, 2012 at 11:23 pm #

    Just because you mention China……..I bet Julian Assange wishes he was seeking assylum in a Beijing based embassy as I seem to remember that they allowed a blind dissident to leave for America recently, honouring the assylum process unlike here in the UK.Not that I’ve seen this parallel drawn in any media here……. the illusion of freedoms,good and bad seems harder to spin by the day….I’ve been having to resist the urge to perform punk anthems at the altar of Canterbury Cathedral to further stretch this narrative for days now!!

  6. BobRocket August 18, 2012 at 11:41 pm #

    ‘Money-laundering is rampant and practically unop-
    posed, at a time when interbank-lending has dried up.
    The recommendations devised to prevent the use of fi-
    nancial institutions to launder criminal money, today
    are honored mostly in the breach. At a time of major
    bank failures, money doesn’t smell, bankers seem to be-
    lieve. Honest citizens, struggling in a time of economic
    hardship, wonder why the proceeds of crime – turned
    into ostentatious real estate, cars, boats and planes – are
    not seized.’

    Antonio Maria Costa
    Executive Director
    United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime

    From the UN World Drugs Report 2009

    There is over $1 Trillion laundered annually through the international banking system ($500bn in illicit drugs, $250bn in counterfeit goods and over $300bn in illegal arms sales and people trafficking)

    #Pat Flannery

    there is no hazard and they have no morals


    It’s not just banks with a vested interest though.

    Drug related (monetary) crime in the UK increases insurance premiums, employs thousands of law enforcement related jobs, keeps courts and lawyers busy and drug counselors and prison staff (G4S) in business (not to mention MSM in scandalous headlines), it keeps open the opportunity of coercion and blackmail to our security forces, both internal and external.

    This is a multi-billion dollar business and if the War on Drugs was somehow miraculously won then the whole enterprise would collapse, so the objective of the enterprise is not to win it but to prolong it.

    Drugs, like any commodity, are a product that owes their very existence to demand. If drugs were as freely available as the very air we breathe then their value would be nil (and the multi-billion dollar business would not exist)

    Artificial restrictions in the supply allow the price chargeable to rise.

    All of the drugs that consumers demand can be grown or synthesised here in the UK (opium poppies (morphine/heroin), coca plants (cocaine/lignocaine) and medical marijuana are all grown under H.O. licence in the UK)

    So why do TPTB want to keep a whole bucketload of untraceable cash flowing round the banking system with all the opportunities for corruption and graft that it exposes ?

    They say that Legitimising, Regulating and Taxing this industry would be bad on health grounds and that it would encourage young people to take up damaging drug use.

    Fair enough, except illegitimate drugs in unknown purities and strengths are available to anybody with £20 irrespective of how old they are or the provenance of the £20

  7. BobRocket August 18, 2012 at 11:42 pm #

    Apologies David, I forgot to welcome you back, sorry.

  8. Bluebird August 19, 2012 at 12:57 am #

    Is anyone else wondering how Romney got so wealthy? And how wealthy is he? No one really knows because so much wealth is sheltered in offshore tax havens.

  9. Patricia August 19, 2012 at 3:36 am #

    Thank God you are back David. You are my drug and I have so missed you. Just keep your chin up. Literally. It does help when times are bad. Truly.

  10. Agtefc August 19, 2012 at 5:53 am #

    Original perspectives backed by empirical evidence and thoughough research. Well done. I suppose this is how the banks (and elite individuals) get physical cash right before the acute phase of deleveraging begins? It is very difficult to go down to your regular bank and withdraw several billion in cash, therefore you go to the drug trade and get your physical cash in a less conspicuous manner all while promoting hyperinflation propaganda. Deception of perception is the name of the game.

    97 percent of the worlds opium Is now produced in afganistan under NATO supervision. Before nato, the taliban kept a lid of opium because it was not compatible with islam. I bet
    the story of laundering opium drug money for the drug war against russia is quite the story.

    Killing a n-dimensional bird with a single stone.

    All great things emerge from chaos


    • steviefinn August 19, 2012 at 1:58 pm #

      Thank you for two brilliant feasts of thought, added to by very tasty commentary.

      It all kind of reminds me of the gangsters in the 30’s who due to the prohibition of the biggest killer drug, built up crime empires. Of course these people were the scum of the earth, killers who for the most part were brought to justice. I bet if Capone were alive today he would be full of envy & admiration at how the banksters operate their rackets. They are ” Legit “, they have an incredible numbers game, & they make money out of almost anything.

      They don’t just own a few cops & senators, they own nearly all governments of whatever colour, & they have the ultimate in heavy mobs. They are not connected to the deaths that occur from their actions, like sky rocketing suicide rates, starvation due to speculation, invasions & subjugation of countries for resources & all the social consequences of increasing poverty. Also they are for the most part proving to be above the law & own the media.

      You gotta hand it to them, they seem to have it sussed, the Goldman Sachs mob have now shifted their pay off to that Romney guy, seemingly a better bet for when things get really heavy. Of course these lords of finance cannot be compared to mafia hoods, after all the early Dons refused to deal in drugs.

  11. Charles Wheeler August 19, 2012 at 4:34 pm #

    ‘HSBC has a history.’

    Of course, it was founded at a time when state-sponsored drug-running was a bit more explicit!

  12. Dave frog2 August 19, 2012 at 8:45 pm #

    @ Bluebird 12.57AM 19 aug

    Mitt’s Money —

    ” When The Huffington Post asked the Romney campaign about Bain Capital accepting funds from families tied to death squads, a spokeswoman forwarded a 1999 Salt Lake Tribune article to explain the campaign’s position on the matter. She declined to comment further.

    “Romney confirms Bain had investors in El Salvador. But, as was Bain’s policy with any big investor, they had the families checked out as diligently as possible,” the Tribune wrote. “They uncovered no unsavory links to drugs or other criminal activity.”

    Nobody with a basic understanding of the region’s history could believe that assertion. ”


  13. Maria das Santos August 20, 2012 at 8:06 am #

    Great your back,welcome!Just to add,when the banks in the UK were collapsing,the first banks to be rescued were OFF-SHORE,particularly the British Virgin Islands ,where the Chinese have been recently very active.Strange that we are being squeezed to aid the off-shore centres.

  14. YankeeFrank August 20, 2012 at 8:27 am #

    The shocking bit, as you point out, and as most people do not realize, is that without western banks laundering this money, the drug trade would collapse. It wouldn’t last another week. Personally I believe all drugs should be legal, regulated and taxed just like alcohol. The lie that many people would touch cocaine and heroin if they were legal is just that — a foolish lie. People know these drugs are dangerous, and if they want them they can get them now. Its not like making them legal will all the sudden stoke demand. But the sad truth is that there is just way too much money being made with the current “arrangement”. The prison industrial complex booms, the security/interdiction complex booms, the banks have a rock steady supply of cash to cushion their capital base, and of course, to skim off the top of, the pols have a great issue to lather up the populace with, and everyone is happy except for society as a whole, which pays a steep price for all of this corruption, police state encroachment, tax money to fund and of course the cost in shattered lives for those who get caught in the middle of it all. The drug war farce is an allegory for the global economy: misery and pain for the 99% while a few criminals make out like… criminals. I mean just think about the housing bust — if we had just paid the banksters their bonuses up front and told them to cease and desist blowing the housing bubble, an $8 trillion dollar mess would’ve been less than $100 billion tops. Ditto for the politicians — their corruption (the bribes they take) costs so little compared to the amount of damage they do to our societies in return for those bribes. Pathetic they are all bought so cheap, and at such a cost.

  15. John Souter August 20, 2012 at 8:56 am #

    The alpha dogs of the dog eat dog society have never been fussy as to the quality of their diet.

  16. Joe Taylor August 21, 2012 at 12:10 pm #

    I’m left just about speechless by this thought I guess I shouldn’t be.

    I emailed quite a few people for their opinion and one of them, who doesn’t want to be named, came back with:


    The article is a reasonably true reflection of the situation since WWII with the big banks.

    It’s peanuts compared to the fraud connected to derivative products (which amount to at least $1.5 QUADRILLION currently).

    Drug trade is run by the US Government and City of London . CIA has always been the major illegal drugs trafficker (congressional reports in US evidence this …all public knowledge for decades) …Wachovia Bank laundered the majority of the dirty cash which basically kept afloat the entire World economy due to collateralisation at interest …inter bank lending (LIBOR manipulation ?) and gilts ..naked default swaps and linked to the bubbles which will very soon cause the total collapse of the global economy.

    This article scratches at the edges of the banking fraud.

    BUT the assumption that Western Governments have a vested interest in the illegal drugs market is 100% correct .

    Last month 3,000 jobs lost in The City , but 9,000 increased posts in New York (Wall Street) …looks like the rats are deserting the sinking City.

    Major banks are now positioning for survival as the economic collapse looms. Most banks will go under and few survive to thrive as the globalists take total control (Totalitarianism is the only possible outcome) …………Not a nice prospect for anybody but the self proclaimed rulers of the planet ….which will very quickly destroy those politicians who helped them to achieve their globalist aims……….I wonder why they can’t see this coming …..

    That’s my honest opinion ……I hope I’m wrong and nothing serious occurs …but everything points to total meltdown ……ALL the banking system could have already imploded …but manipulation of statistics is covering it up ……time will tell……Rothschilds have bet £200 Million (shorted) against the EURO lasting another 6 months…..and gold prices are being supressed artificially …..not for long though.


    I don’t know what to say but I’m worried, to put it mildly

    • john newman August 28, 2012 at 10:25 pm #

      At Naked Capitalism in Matt Stoller’s review of Neil Barofsky’s “Bailout” today is this interesting bit: “Barofsky talks about one of his cases going after the narco-terrorist cartel in Colombia, or FARC, and how he jousted with various government agencies – the DOJ and the State Department – to push the case forward in the face of bureaucratic stubbornness. Barofsky came dangerously close to being assassinated by the cartel, as he learned later. At one point during the case, while on the Amtrak train, he noticed a man staring at his computer screen, and it turned out to be Joe Biden. Biden told him that the biggest obstacle to enforcing international narcotics laws was not corruption or traffickers, but “the United States State Department.”

  17. Rebel Griot August 21, 2012 at 6:09 pm #

    This is an article I wrote on the subject a few years back: scroll down to the case studies if you want to skip the rant and get straight to the juice….


    A recent leaked report by the British government reveals the extent of drug abuse in this country. The report estimates that there are around 280,000 “high harm” users in Britain , who between themselves are responsible for £16 billion worth of crime per year: 56% of all crime in the country. The report was only released in incomplete form, as the government were embarrassed by the failures it revealed in their current policy. Other parts, however, were leaked to the press.
    The leaked sections of the banned report went on to estimate that for border seizures to be effective, customs officers would need seizure rates of between 60 and 80%. Despite their best efforts, they have never achieved even 20%.
    What are the effects of this failure? The effects are there to see in any estate in Britain . Vulnerable young people, bored and mistreated by the education system, with few job prospects, turning to drugs as a way to escape the harsh realities of life. Looking at their elders around them, seeing good law-abiding citizens being flung from minimum wage job to minimum wage job, no security, no decent money, always on the verge of unemployment, debt, even homelessness. Living in council blocks which haven’t been repaired for years, (part of a government policy to blackmail them into voting to get rid of council housing altogether). And then looking at the dealers, with their nice flats, nice cars, fat wads of notes. Sure, some of them end up in prison, they know that. But prison is only a deterrent if you value your life outside.
    Youths congregating in stairwells and corridors to sell or use drugs. Needles, tinfoil, piss on the stairs. Public spaces becoming more and more unwelcoming. Old ladies scared to leave their flat, or stop to chat to their neighbours.
    It is clear that the current policy is not working. The above report made this abundantly clear: that is why the government tried to suppress it.
    The problem is that capitalism inevitably encourages illegal drug use, on every level: the alienation and poverty it creates produces a market for drugs as a form of escape; the worldwide impoverishment of small farmers produces an army of hungry mouths looking to grow any crop that will fetch a living wage; and the banking system, always vulnerable to the slightest shock, is loath to see its’ profits from the drugs trade taken away. Capitalism creates the demand, creates the supply, and reaps the profits. No wonder capitalist governments are either unable or unwilling to tackle the problem in any serious way.
    But they go further than simply tolerating the drugs trade. As you can see from the examples on this page, time and again, US and British military might and aid has been used to build the trade to new heights. Every time there has been a serious threat to the trade, they have been there to get it back on its’ feet.
    Why is this?

    1) Anti-Communism
    Peter Dale Scott, in his book “Drugs, Oil and War” suggests that the consistent CIA support for the big drug dealers was essentially part of an opportunistic Cold War strategy. The CIA wanted to overthrow revolutionary regimes as these regimes were preventing US business from making profits in their territories, and were inspiring other third world countries to do the same. The ‘mafia’-type gangs in these countries also wanted to overthrow such regimes, for the same reasons – they were being prevented from making a quick buck there also, their old corrupt police allies would often be jailed, and they would face big crackdowns. So the two forces made an alliance to overthrow these new regimes or movements, whether in China , Laos , Afghanistan , Colombia , or elsewhere. The drug trade was an obvious way to get funding to such groups, as the CIA’s connections got them unimaginable protection, and it was a way of raising large amounts of cash without having to get approval from the US Congress.
    Also, from the CIA’s point of view, the drugs gangs made ideal allies, as they were already a type of ‘proto-state’; used to operating illegally, they would already have their own security/ paramilitary forces. If the revolutionaries had already come to power, the old forces of the state would be smashed and impotent – leaving the ‘mafia’ gangs as the only armed and organised force outside of state control.
    This may well have been the main conscious reason for the CIA’s backing of the drug-
    runners. But there are also other benefits of these policies for the US ruling class, which makes them reluctant to change such policies.

    2) Dividing and pacifying the working class.
    Drugs wreak havoc on working class communities. Addiction-fuelled burglaries, robberies and muggings; turf wars between rival gangs of dealers; deaths from overdosing; malnourished addicts and their children; dirty needles and armed gangs outside your window. The drug trade does not make a pretty sight of many neighbourhoods. But, from the point of view of the ruling class, it makes a far prettier sight than united revolutionary communities.
    In 1960s USA , the Black Panther Party, a militant black working class organisation built around the principles of self defence and self reliance, was mobilising whole communities against police brutality, and in fact against the whole capitalist system. As a result, they were deemed public enemy number one by J Edgar Hoover, head of the FBI. Every trick in the book was used against them, from assassination, to wrongful imprisonment on trumped up charges. Some of them, such as Mumia Abu Jamal, are still in prison today.
    Floods of cheap heroin and cocaine into the ghettoes served to further divide the community and disunite people in the face of the onslaught from the state against their movement. There was little incentive for the FBI to be cracking down on the drugs trade when the trade was actually helping to further their strategic aim of ‘neutralising’ the Black Panther Party and other radical groups of the poor and oppressed.

    3) An excuse for moves towards a police state
    The continuing massive supplies of drugs into our communities also gives the perfect excuse for an increase in authoritarian police powers, which can then be used, not just against dealers, but against all of us. Specifically, the proliferation of drugs (and the accompanying violence) is an excuse for:
    a) More and more frequent use of ‘stop and search’ powers.
    b) The militarisation of the police: ‘the gangs have guns, so the police need guns too’.
    c) Curfews, ‘no go areas’, etc.

    4) Capitalist economics relies on the drugs trade.
    As capitalism progresses, it becomes more and more reliant on the most destructive industries to maintain profitability. As technology is improved, the capacity for making profits from the productive industries is weakened, and investors turn more to high-risk, high-profit, destructive, sectors, which thrive in conditions of instability – such as the arms trade, the oil industry, and the drugs trade.
    A recent UN report revealed that the trade in illegal drugs constitutes a staggering 8-9% of world trade. Almost one pound in every tenner in the world gets spent on drugs. That’s £177billion per year (The Guardian, 30/06/05). What happens to this money? It gets ‘laundered’ – fake businesses are set up and the drugs money then enters normal circulation by being registered as profits of the ‘legit’ enterprise. Then it gets banked – in Natwest, HSBC, or wherever. In fact, according to Alain Labrousse, former editor of Geopolitical Drug Dispatch, around 80% of drugs profits end up in the major Western banks, or their subsidiaries abroad.
    That means that between them, Natwest, HSBC, Lloyds TSB and a handful of others, have around £140billion per year invested in their coffers from the drugs trade. It does not take a genius to work out what their position would be towards any serious crackdown on the trade. They want to maximise profit – in fact, it is their legal obligation to their shareholders to maximise profit.
    Little wonder then that neither Labour nor Tory governments – both of which represent the interests of big business more than anything else – are so keen to follow ineffective drugs strategies and bring drug traffickers to power the world over.


    CHINA, 1839-41: The “Opium Wars”
    In 1839, Britain invaded China in response to a Chinese ban on the Opium trade. Britain had been making a fortune selling Indian opium in China , and believed that the ban was an affront to the British values of ‘free trade’. Two years later, China was defeated and forced to pay £21million compensation and repoen her ports to British opium traders, who were to be granted immunity from Chinese law. The trade was back with a vengeance…
    (information from J.A.G. Roberts’ Complete History of China)

    CHINA, 1949: Revolution threatens drug trade. CIA steps in
    By the 1940s, the Chinese provinces of Yannan and Sichuan were growing 85% of the world’s opium. But the Chinese Revolution of 1949 put a stop to all that. So the Koumintang, China ‘s previous rulers, who had formerly controlled the drugs trade, relocated to Burma . The CIA helped them considerably in their efforts to rebuild the trade from there. CIA planes flew into Burma carrying weapons for the Koumintang, and left full of Koumintang opium. The opium was then delivered to the Thai chief of police, Phao Sriyanon, another CIA agent, who arranged for it to be shipped to the US for sale on the streets. Investment in the opium traffic was considered by the CIA a good way to exert influence, and it was also a way of providing funds for the Koumintang without going through Congress.
    (information from Peter Dale Scott, Drugs, Oil, and War, chapter three)

    AFGHANISTAN 1979: Revolution threatens drugs trade. CIA steps in
    In 1979, the People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan took power in a popular peasant-based revolution. Land was redistributed and women given equal rights for the first (and last) time in the country’s history. By now, Afghanistan had become the centre of world opium production and, as in China , the revolution put a stop to the trade. Immediately, the US began arming the Mojahedin, the Islamist groups who were fighting to restore the power of the landlords and mullahs. These groups were heavily involved in the opium trade, smuggling it across the border to Pakistan where Mr Hekmatyar operated 6 heroin labs, with the full knowledge of the Pakistani intelligence agency, ISI – also funded and trained by the CIA. From there it was smuggled onto international markets by Fazle Haq, the military governor of the North West province of Pakistan , also a CIA asset (listed by interpol as an international drugs trafficker in 1987). Once again, opium production and distribution was back on its’ feet – with CIA help.
    (information from Peter Dale Scott, Drugs, Oil, and War, chapter two)

    AFGHANISTAN, 2001: Taliban threatens drugs trade. US and British army step in
    By 2000, the Mojahedin had split into rival factions, the largest being the Taliban and the Northern Alliance . Although the Northern Alliance controlled some areas, the Taliban had overall control over Afghanistan . In 2000, they announced a total ban on the cultivation of the opium poppy, and set about eliminating the crops. A UN report from 2001 confirmed that the ban was taking effect: they estimated output for 2001 at 185 tons (almost entirely from the Northern Alliance controlled areas), compared to the 2000 harvest of 3500 tons! 70% of the world’s opium supply was wiped out overnight – the biggest drop in opium production for half a century (since the Chinese revolution).
    After the invasion of late 2001, however, all that changed. Under US and British military rule, the country is producing more opium than ever before. The UN’s annual opium survey from 2004 said that the country now produces 87% of global opium, and produced a record 4200 tons in one year. An estimated 2.3 million Afghans are involved in the trade – one in ten of the population. Keith Hellawell, the British ‘drugs czar’, believes the drug trade permeates every level of local and national Afghan government except the President himself. The British government’s ‘attempts’ to combat the trade are tokenistic at best. A recent BBC Panaorama documentary gave an example of one provincial governor who agreed to eradicate all the poppy fields in his area as long as the British provided alternative employment. His eradication destroyed the livelihoods of 1500 breadwinners, and in return Britain provided funding for 100 people to dig a ditch for one month. Britain is overseeing the biggest heroin plantation in the world, and doing nothing to stop it.
    STOP PRESS: There has been talk recently of a British ‘blitz on Afghan drug lords’ (see, for example, The Sun, 22/08/05). This ‘blitz’ will attack only those areas which are resisting US and British authority in Afghanistan , and not the vast majority of ‘druglords’ who are, in fact, their allies. As with the ‘war on drugs’ in Colombia, it will only have the effect of 1) driving up the price of opium, making it even more attractive for other exporters and 2) helping consolidate the drug market in the hands of their friends and allies.
    (information from Peter Dale Scott, Drugs, Oil, and War; The Independent, 19/11/04; BBC TV: Panorama: Britain ‘s Heroin Fix)

    YUGOSLAVIA 1999: NATO put drug runners in control of Kosovo
    When it leaves Afghanistan , heroin must be transported through Eastern Europe to get to the streets of Britain . Most of it comes through Kosovo, where the NATO invasion of 1999 ousted the Serb authorities and replaced them with a military dictatorship made up of NATO troops and KLA fighters. The KLA – Kosovo Liberation Army – are essentially the ‘political wing’ of the Albanian mafia, and are known to be responsible for most of the traffic in drugs, as well as arms and people, between Central Asia and Western Europe . They have a fascistic ideology, and believe that ethnically mixed Kosovo should be ‘cleansed’ of Serbs, Jews, and Gypsies. Since NATO put them in charge of the province they have come some way to achieving their goal: over two thirds of Kosovo’s non-Albanian population have fled the province or been killed. Dealers in Britain will have noticed that even large blocks of hash are often stamped “thank you for supporting the KLA”

    NICARAGUA 1980s: CIA build crack empire in Los Angeles
    A popular revolution in Nicaragua in 1980 meant that various former landowners, politicians and businessmen fled to the US . The CIA helped some of them set up the ‘Contras’, a terrorist organisation which aimed to overthrow the new revolutionary government. The head of the Contras was Colonel Enrique Bermudez, a paid CIA agent, who instructed two other Contras, Danilo Blandon and Norwin Meneses, to start selling crack to pay for the war effort. They teamed up with Rick Ross, who became the first dealer to popularise crack. Meneses and Blandon sold him 5000 kilos per year, as well as surveillance equipment, semi-automatic rifles, submachine guns, etc. Their low prices were reponsible for the first ‘crack explosion’ in the US .
    Although the DEA had had a file on Meneses since 1974, he was able to operate freely due to his CIA links. He was implicated in large busts in both 1978 and 1980, and a DEA agent had a sting operation ready to catch him in 1981, but was taken off the case at the last minute. The DEA never went ahead with the bust, and the files were shredded in 1984. The DEA later complained that their efforts against Meneses were constantly blocked by the NSC and the CIA.
    Finally, when the Contra war was over (and the streets of LA already filled with crack and crack-fuelled territorial wars), Blandon was finally put in prison – for just 28 months. Meneses was eventually indicted in 1989, when he was already safe in Costa Rica . No extradition request was made. It was clear that the CIA had known about the whole operation because of their constant protection from prosecution of those involved.
    (Cockburn/ St Clair, Whiteout: The CIA, Drugs and the Press)

    COLOMBIA: British military aid supports drug traffic
    The US and Britain both regularly give large amounts of military aid to the fascistic Uribe, President of Colombia. NGOs regularly confirm that the Colombian army has extensive links to the right wing paramilitaries in Colombia , which are responsible for 80% of the human rights atrocities in the country. The Colombian government itself estimates that these paramilitaries control around 40% of the Colombian drug trade (Newsweek, 21/05/01). Carlos Castano, leader of the main paramilitary group, the AUC, admitted that 70% of their income comes from drug trafficking. Yet despite the ties between these groups and the Colombian army, proven time and again, Britain continues to arm, train, and fund this regime, which last year oversaw 7000 political killings and disappearances. As Douglas Stokes of Aberystwyth University put it, this miltary aid “is going directly to the major terrorist networks throughout Colombia, who traffic cocaine into US markets to fund their activities” (Morning Star, 19/03/05). This is in addition to the heroin smuggled to the US by US operatives themselves, such as Colonel James Hiett, former leader of the US ‘anti-drugs’ effort in Colombia .

    BOX QUOTE: “In my thirty year history in the DEA and related agencies, the major targets of my investigations almost invariably turned out to be working for the CIA” – former top DEA administrator (from Peter Dale Scott, Drugs, Oil, and War, p.186)

    BOX QUOTE: “80% of the profits from drug trafficking ends up in the banks of the wealthy countries” – Alain Labrousse, former editor of Geopolitical Drug Dispatch (from Peter Dale Scott, Drugs, Oil, and War, p. 65)

    BOX QUOTE: According to a recent UN report, the trade in illegal drugs constitutes between 8 and 9 % of total world trade: around £177 billion per year. (The Guardian, 30/06/05)

    NATO: North Atlantic Treaty Organisation. A US -led military alliance comprising US, Britain , Germany , France, etc, and now also Eastern European countries such as Poland .
    NSC: National Security Council of the US
    CIA: Central Intelligence Agency , US , set up by President Truman. He later said “I never had any thought…when I set up the CIA, that it would be injected into peacetime cloak and dagger operations”
    DEA: Drugs Enforcement Agency , US . The agency officially responsible for catching drug dealers.

  18. steviefinn August 21, 2012 at 7:37 pm #

    Rebel G, fascinating, thanks.

    Interview of Robert Mazur

  19. steviefinn August 21, 2012 at 8:06 pm #

    Doh !

    Mazur was an undercover agent whose work investigating the bank BCCI exposed the laundering of Escobar’s dirty money. A sordid tale, cannot help thinking it’s only the tip of an iceberg :




  20. Odin's Raven August 26, 2012 at 11:23 pm #

    There’d be no banking system unless it followed Vespasian’s maxim “Pecunia non olet”. Hang the bankers? That would inconvenience our rulers, so it won’t happen.

  21. Byzantium August 27, 2012 at 9:07 pm #

    Cash for gold shops are now ubiquitous across the western world, and the Daily Telegraph claimed recently that Italy alone had 28,000 of these. That is a lot of cash changing hands.

    For the gold, do the public indeed receive ‘cash’ as advertised, rather than cheque/wire?

    If so, then this might be a major route to launder drugs money. Drugs sold for cash, which is then routed to buy the public’s gold in legitimate transactions, gold then sold to central banks & bullion banks, no questions asked.

  22. Longtime Banker August 29, 2012 at 3:50 pm #

    I have 30 years in banking at a variety of levels – you are all psychotic with intellects smaller than your apparently miniscule genitalia who need to prop themselves up by blaming anyone else for their puny lives. Banks provide the rails that commerce runs on – governments punish banks through regulators for a simple reason – because they can! Blaming banks is like blaming telephone cos (you don’t think criminals use phones?) or Harrods (you don’t think a sizable % of all the cash they handle has traces of cocaine on it?). So when a criminal enterprise gets busted (oft as a result of government mandated reporting provided by – you guessed it – banks!) they use seized evidence to determine where the funds are and were, and then sanction/penalize the banks because of some trivial nonsense – not because its right – but because they can! – it diverts attention from their own failings. Banks are pretty much in the same boat as the next door neighbor interviewed on the telly after a terrorist or mass murderer is found out – “gee he seemed like a nice guy!”…We don’t lock the neighbor up and/or penalize him/her for not figuring out that he/she was about to commit a horrific crime and reporting it to the authorities and/or stopping them – yet that is the standard you all seem to want to hold banks to. GET A LIFE and kindly remove your heads from your arses.

    • Nicholas Dyson August 29, 2012 at 6:02 pm #

      Except the neighbour doesn’t get paid ten million. Whose life do you recommend we get?

    • Pat August 29, 2012 at 7:05 pm #

      The neighbour in your analogy presumably does not facilitate the crime in question, say by keeping the terrorist’s explosives in his house, or profit directly from it. If he did, he might very well have difficulty convincing the police that he knew nothing about it.

      As to ‘governments punish banks through regulators for a simple reason – because they can!’, when it comes to bank regulation our governments do not as much as they can, but as little as they think they can get away with. Look at the case of Jonathan Sugarman at Unicredit in Dublin, for instance. He couldn’t get any response from the Irish authorities even when he was actively informing them of regular breaches of liquidity rules.

      There is no need to be rude. For my own part, I cannot imagine a ‘punier’ life than one dedicated to material acquisition, and I am quite content with my intellect and my genitalia – but maybe that’s why I never saw the point of big swinging dick competitions or became a banker.

  23. Pat Flannery August 30, 2012 at 9:05 am #

    I fear “Longtime Banker” is here to disrupt. Take it as a compliment. Obviously we are getting to them. Just ignore him as we have done with disrupters in the past.

    • Golem XIV August 30, 2012 at 9:41 am #

      You’re right Pat. I think ignoring this particular ranter is probably best.

      What I would say though, is if that argument is the best some one who has ‘been a banker at various levels for 30 years’ can come up with then we are all in even more trouble that I thought.

      Surely not the’ smartest man in the room’.

  24. orville August 30, 2012 at 10:34 am #

    Er.. anyway… [awkwardly tries to ignore the foaming sociopath in the corner] Did everyone see see how the Spanish regions are finally getting bailed out? I’m sure I read about this before somewhere . Thanks for the heads up!

  25. cynicalHighlander August 30, 2012 at 4:01 pm #

    Under the Mask of the War on Drugs

    “If you look at the drug war from a purely economic point of view, the role of the government is to protect the drug cartel.”

    Milton Friedman

  26. BobRocket September 2, 2012 at 10:42 pm #

    looks like Credit Immobilier de France is going belly up.

    (Reuters) – France’s rescue of mortgage lender Credit Immobilier de France guarantees its assets up to a ceiling of more than 20 billion euros (15.88 billion pounds), a source familiar with the matter said on Sunday.


    French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault insisted that the rescue would not end up costing French taxpayers money.

    Firstly, it will cost a whole metric shedload of euros more than 20 billion and secondly (to paraphrase a much banned Peston Picks poster), ‘They (the French people) are never getting their money back.

    In bailing out the banking debt crisis they are guaranteeing a Sovereign debt crisis down the line. Is no one capable or willing to learn the lessons from history ?

    • Geowaverider September 3, 2012 at 12:05 am #


      Whatever happened to WOTW?

      Sadly missed, by me anyway.

      There is a very small group of enlightened people if you care to look for them, unfortunately their message gets blocked by the MSM, so that the “Sheeple” are not awoken from their slumber.

    • penny bloater September 3, 2012 at 9:19 am #

      Apparently not – such rules of government’s underwriting and bailing out the losses of banks have been enshrined in successive BIS agreements since the 1974 slump when the finances of several UK, German and US banks went pear-shaped. Japan has underwent 20 odd years of such policies which have turned the country from an industrial giant into an economic cripple – albeit, a more sustainable and equal one than ours.

      This mess isn’t going to end soon, or be shrugged off – the neoliberal financial elite have got what they’ve always wanted – sympathetic governments that are only too willing to take on sovereign debt crises (France looks the latest example) to protect the 1%.

      I really do despair and can’t see anyway out of this mess.

  27. Life after Debt September 4, 2012 at 6:49 pm #

    A truly excellent piece which provides astounding insight into how the drug trade and money laundering are an established well integrated part of the big banks business plan. I wrote this in disgust at everything the bankster elite are allowed to get away with.


    • Golem XIV September 4, 2012 at 9:54 pm #

      Thank you. Thank you for the link. Your article is an essential reminder that the banks crimes are just that, crimes. With real consequenes for real people.

  28. dave September 21, 2012 at 11:37 pm #

    Nice article David. Thanks.
    if anyone is still wondering why the utterly ‘failed’ War on Drugs remains so firm a mantra, this piece will shed some light. (The inverted commas are there of course because it has only failed in its stated objectives, not its actual ones.)
    Only with relative scarcity can a price premium be demanded. Only with a “War on Drugs” can the US taxpayer be forced to fund the aerial destruction of ‘little league’ South American drug crops.

    Life is a game and everyone’s role has been played out many times before.

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