Rabobank accused of laundering drug money in Mexico

Dutch lawyers and rights activists on Thursday filed a criminal complaint against Rabobank accusing the lender of complicity in money-laundering by Mexican drug cartels and urging prosecutors to investigate.

Acting on behalf of Fernando Hernandez, a Mexican now living in The Netherlands, the SMX Collective filed the complaint against the bank and its executives to the Dutch prosecution.

It accused the bank of “having laundered structurally and for a long period of time the proceeds of crimes committed by Mexican drugs cartels” via a branch of its subsidiary in Calexico, southern California, just over the border from Mexico.

“By doing this, they assisted the drugs cartels in the commission of all their crimes, including crimes against humanity,” the complaint alleges.

Rabobank, one of The Netherlands’ largest banks, emerged from small cooperative banks in the late 19th century serving farmers and horticulturists and is active in 40 countries.

The Calexico branch has been closed since 2015, but has been under investigation by US federal authorities amid allegations of money laundering.

But rights lawyer Goran Sluiter told a press conference in The Hague on Thursday that Dutch prosecutors also had jurisdiction over any crimes committed by Rabobank, as the bank’s global headquarters are in Utrecht. He urged Dutch prosecutors not to await the results of the US investigation which he said was “likely not to cover the consequences of money-laundering for the civilian population in Mexico.”

“Money-laundering is not a crime without victims”, Sluiter said, arguing the bank had failed to scrutinise and query “unusual transactions” at the Calexico branch.

“The proceeds of crimes which are laundered by banks including Rabobank, those profits are re-invested in the criminal acts of the cartels,” he added.

“Thereby financial institutions contribute in a significant way to the suffering of the Mexican population.”

The Dutch prosecution service confirmed to AFP they have received a copy of the complaint and “it will be studied by the prosecutors’ office.”

Rabobank spokesman Hendrik Jan Eijpe told AFP the company had only just received the complaint and was not commenting on the accusations. But he added Rabobank had been “cooperating with the US authorities” and their investigation.

Libor convictions

A US appeals court on Thursday questioned whether two former Rabobank traders’ rights were violated in what became the first case by US Justice Department to go to trial spilling out of global probes into the manipulation of Libor.

Over 1-1/2 hours, the 2nd US Circuit Court of Appeals in New York weighed whether to overturn the 2015 convictions of Anthony Allen and Anthony Conti, two former British traders at the Dutch bank.

The traders argued their case became tainted after Paul Robson, an ex-Rabobank trader turned cooperating witness, reviewed testimony that a UK regulator compelled Allen and Conti to give in a related probe.

Michael Schachter, Allen’s lawyer, said that may have influenced any information Robson provided U.S. authorities or at trial, causing their statements to be used against them in violation of the US Constitution.

US Circuit Judge Gerard Lynch asked how the court could be sure that did not happen, since no record existed of what Robson would have said about any wrongdoing.

“He may have actually seen it, but we have a record where he did not actually testify to it until after he had been exposed to the immunized testimony,” Lynch said.

John Pellettieri, a Justice Department lawyer, said prosecutors took steps to ensure the case did not become tainted. But he said such caution was unnecessary since a foreign government obtained the testimony.

Circuit Judge Jose Cabranes said under that theory, “if a foreign sovereign beats the hell out of somebody and compels the testimony, since it’s a different sovereign, you’re able to use that compelled testimony in a federal court.”

Libor, or the London interbank offered rate, underpins trillions of dollars of financial products and is based on what banks say they believe they would pay if they borrowed from other banks.

Probes into whether banks manipulated Libor have led to roughly $9 billion (€8.37 billion)in global settlements with financial institutions and US and UK cases against several people.

Allen, Rabobank’s former global head of liquidity and finance, and Conti, a former senior trader, were indicted a year after Rabobank in 2013 reached a $1 billion (€0.93 billion) deal to resolve US and European probes.

A jury convicted them on conspiracy and wire fraud charges in 2015 for participating in a scheme to rig the US dollar and yen Libor rates. Allen, 45, and Conti, 47, were sentenced to two years and one year in prison, respectively.