Tampa Bay ex-undercover agent rips law enforcement for weak fight against drug money laundering
Wake up and good morning. Robert Mazur is mad as hell and not going to take it any more. For years, the New Yorker-turned-Tampa-Bay business man served as a federal undercover agent penetrating the nastiest of the Colombia drug cartels. He wrote about his experience in a recent book, The Infiltrator: My Secret Life Inside the Dirty Banks Behind Pablo Escobar's Medellín Cartel, (here's more on the book and Mazur), and vented plenty on the lack of spine among federal higher-ups in fighting harder against banks, businesses and others who play along with the international drug and money laundering world in exchange for a piece of the pie. By the way, that's Mazur on the right in this photo taken while he was working undercover.
Now Mazur, president of Tampa forensic investigators Chase & Associates, is back. In a New York Times opinion piece this week called Follow The Dirty Money, Mazur rips the law enforcement community for merely slapping the wrists of banks who turn a blind eye to money laundering. Writes Mazur, who was trained as an accountant: "Bankers are escaping prosecution because law enforcement is failing to expose the evidence that some bankers market dirty money."
Mazur was spurred to vent because of a series of wrist slappings. He points to a series of them involving Union Bank of California, American Express Bank International, Florida's BankAtlantic and Wachovia. They were all caught moving huge sums of drug money, but no one went to jail. The banks just admitted to criminal conduct and paid the government a cut of their profits. Here's more on the probe of dirty money from the Wall Street Journal.
The latest event seems most absurd to Mazur. As he wrote in the New York Times:
"Last month, a federal district judge approved a deal to allow Barclays, the British bank, to pay a $298 million fine for conducting transactions with Cuba, Iran, Libya, Myanmar and Sudan in violation of United States trade sanctions. Barclays was discovered to have systematically disguised the movement of hundreds of millions of dollars through wire transfers that were stripped of the critical information required by law that would have enabled the world to know that for more than 10 years the bank was moving huge sums of money for enemy governments. Yet all federal prosecutors wanted to settle the problem was a small piece of the action.
"When Judge Emmet Sullivan of the federal district court in Washington, who ultimately approved the deal with Barclays, asked the obvious question, Why isn’t the government getting rough with these banks?, the remarkable response was that the government had investigated but couldn’t find anyone responsible.
"How preposterous. Banks can commit crimes only through the acts of their employees. Federal law enforcement agencies are simply failing to systematically gather the intelligence they need to effectively monitor the crime."
I met and spent time last year with Bob Mazur. He's the real thing, a hyper-focused, anti-drug money guy who's been frustrated by a U.S. law enforcement system that's too bureaucratic and, frankly, too compromising to get tougher with banks that facilitate the movement of drug money. it's gotten to the point where banks, knowing if they are caught they will merely pay a fine, have figured it's a cost of doing business they can simply afford.
-- Robert Trigaux, Times Business Columnist