The scope of corporate drug money laundering

Stuart Bramhall

I myself first learned of the involvement of mainstream banks and brokerage houses in the laundering of illicit drug profits back in the late eighties, when long term radio journalist Mae Brussell exposed the Merrill Lynch Pizza Connection.

The IMF acknowledges that government enforcement agencies make no effort to quantify the amount of drug money laundering that goes on in banks under their jurisdiction. At different times they have estimated between $1 and $1.5 trillion a year of money laundering by legitimate corporate financial institutions.

Well, if they knowingly laundering drug money then by definition they are not legitimate. And why would governments not want to know what is going on? Unless they are complicit or financially benefit fron it, that is.

Recent prosecutions include American Express, fined $65 million in 2007; Bank of American, fined $75 million in September 2007; and Wachovia, fined $160 million in March 2010. Goldman Sachs and insurance giant AIG have also been indirectly implicated in money laundering, owing to their takeover of smaller financial institutions who have engaged in it.

Yet no higher-ups have gone to prison. Just slap-on-the-wrist fines. Why is this?