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Fed Wrist-slap for Wachovia Shows Drug War Farce

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opednews.com Headlined to H1 5/27/11

The U.S. government won convictions against 23,506 drug traffickers nationwide during 2010 sending 96 percent of those offenders to prison according to U.S. Sentencing Commission statistics.

Yet one of the biggest entities busted by the feds for involvement in drug trafficking last year received an unusual wrist-slap deal from federal prosecutors resulting in no prison time.

During 2010 the U.S. government won convictions against 806 involved in money laundering sending nearly 77 percent of those offenders to prison.

Yet the federal government gave the same unusual wrist-slap to the same entity also caught giving greed-blinded assistance to Mexican drug cartels by laundering billions of dollars in illegal profits.

So, what is this entity that federal prosecutors found worthy of big breaks for its laundering billions and facilitating tons of cocaine trafficking?

Meet Wachovia -- once the nation's sixth largest bank by assets" a too-big-to-fail bank that for the feds is apparently too-big-to jail.

Wachovia recently completed what amounted to a year-long probation arising from a March 2010 settlement deal with federal prosecutors who were pursuing criminal proceedings against Wachovia for its facilitating illegal money transfers from Mexico totaling $378-billion"a staggering sum that included billions traced directly to violent Mexican drug cartels.

The record $160-million fine slapped on Wachovia under terms of that settlement deal included a $50-million assessment for failing to monitor cash used to ship 22 tons of cocaine.(That fine amounted to less than two percent of the profits Wachovia made the prior year.)

Wells Fargo now owns Wachovia. Wells Fargo, federal prosecutors stress, was not involvement in the misdeeds that landed Wachovia in court where it received a deferred prosecution deal.

Wells Fargo purchased Wachovia in early 2009 for $12.7-billion, shortly after Wells Fargo received $25-billion in federal bail-out funds. That purchase helped make Wells Fargo America's second-largest bank.

Many condemn the federal government settlement with Wachovia as a farce. Criticisms come from persons in law enforcement frustrated by big-bank involvement in laundering drug money and those feeling federal drug enforcement practices provide bigger breaks to drug kingpins than low-level operators.

"All the law enforcement people wanted to see this come to trial. But no one goes to jail," said Martin Woods, an English expert on anti-money laundering whose work while with Wachovia's London office helped unravel the drug connections. Woods says Wachovia officials bashed him for his investigative diligence and whistle-blowing.

"It's simple: it you don't see the correlation between the money laundering by banks and people killed in Mexico, you're missing the point," Woods said in an April 3, 2011 article published in The Observer, a British newspaper published on Sundays.

Wachovia's involvement in that money laundering paralleled the period of a murderous escalation in violence in Mexico's Drug War that has claimed the lives of over 40,000 Mexicans since 2006 alone including politicians, prosecutors, police, soldiers, drug gang members and innocent bystanders.

During the same month last year when federal prosecutors gave Wachovia a break, finding no importance in imprisoning any bank personnel for involvement in massive drug-tainted money laundering, other federal prosecutors were pounding domestic drug dealers with long prison sentences.

For example, an Anchorage, Alaska man received a ten year term for selling four ounces of crack cocaine while an East St. Louis, Ill. businessman received a life sentence plus a $2.25-million fine for distributing three thousand pounds of cocaine between 2004 and his arrest in April 2008.

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Linn Washington is a weekly columnist for the Philadelphia Tribune and This Can't Be Happening. Washington writes frequently on inequities in the criminal justice system, ills in society and failings of the news media. He teaches multi-media urban (more...)
 

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