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Rabobank to pay $369m fine for laundering Mexican drug cartel money

Staff Writer |
Netherlands-based Rabobank pleaded guilty to conspiracy charges involving the laundering of drug cartel money through its California branches and will pay a fine of $369 million, federal prosecutors announced.

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The U.S. Attorney's Office of the Southern District of California said Rabobank officials conspired with several former executives to "defraud the United States by unlawfully impeding an examination of its operations throughout California" and locations in Mexico.

The bank admitted that its anti-money laundering program was "deficient" as it allowed hundreds of millions of dollars in untraceable cash from Mexico to be deposited in its branches in Imperial County, Calif. and then transferred via wire transfers, checks and cash transactions to various places without notifying federal regulators as required by law.

"Rabobank admitted it was aware that the suspicious transactions made by certain customers were indicative of international narcotics trafficking, organized crime and money laundering," prosecutors said. "Despite this risk, the bank solicited businesses and individuals conducting these transactions, and failed to adequately monitor and conduct adequate investigations into these suspicious transactions."

Acting Assistant Attorney General John P. Cronan said Rabobank officials also obstructed federal regulators' attempts to investigate.

"When Rabobank learned that substantial numbers of its customers' transactions were indicative of international narcotics trafficking, organized crime, and money laundering activities, it chose to look the other way and to cover up deficiencies in its anti-money laundering program," Cronan said.

The $369 million penalty is the "largest financial penalty in the Southern District of California," prosecutors said.

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