Citibank Caught Laundering Mexican Cartels Drug Money, But Gets a Slap on the Wrist from Obama's Justice Dept.
Citibank's Banamex USA subsidiary has been caught laundering drug money for the notorious Zetas and the Gulf Cartel in Mexico, and, once again, the Obama Administration has given top Citibank officials a free pass. Bloomberg Business News gave a detailed account on Nov. 20 of Citibank's repeated and long-running non-compliance with bank regulations about reporting suspicious activities. In one instance, Antonio Pena Ageuelles, a drug money launderer for the Zetas, opened an account in 2005, claiming to run a small business with a projected $50 a month fund flow through the account. All told, Pena Arguelles laundered $59.4 million through the account. The bank failed to file any suspicious activity reports—even after Pena Arguelles' brother was assassinated by the Zetas and accused of stealing some of the laundered cash in 2011, and even after Pena Arguelles was indicted by U.S. authorities for drug money laundering.
The Bloomberg article cited several other, equally egregious cases where Citibank, through Banamex USA, laundered drug money, failed to comply with compliance or due diligence laws, and only received slap-on-the-wrist cash fines. In one instance unrelated to drug money laundering, a unit of Citigroup had to plead guilty to a felony count of price manipulation of dollars and euros—but no official was sent to prison. In the Banamex U.S.A cases, Citibank is expected to pay in the range of $100 million in fines—a small percentage of the profits the bank made through drug money laundering.
Citibank bought Banamex, Mexico's third largest bank, in 2001 and soon opened Banamex USA branches all along the Texas-Mexico border. It was through one of those branches in Laredo, Texas, that Sonia de Pau, a “Mexican housewife” opened a small account and soon laundered $1.44 million. Her husband had been already indicted on drug money laundering charges, and once again, the bank failed to file any reports on the account. De Pau was laundering money for both the Zetas and the Gulf Cartel, and had actually been arrested a year before she opened the Texas account for money laundering in Mexico.
Bloomberg pointed out that
“Citigroup's money-laundering issues, and the regulatory rancor they bring, go back decades. The bank helped Raul Salinas, the brother of Mexico's President at the time, move as much as $100 million into Swiss and U.K. accounts in the mid-1990s.” Other cases of money laundering by Citibank were cited in Argentina and Japan.