Campaigners say Rabobank should face trial for ‘crimes against humanity’

Rabobank’s headquarters in Utrecht. Photo: Depositphotos.com

A human rights campaign group wants Rabobank executives to stand trial for being accessories to criminal activities carried out by drug cartels in Mexico, the Volkskrant reported on Thursday

The claim by lawyer Göran Sluiter, who is representing Mexican human rights organisation SMX Collective, states the bank has been involved in ‘complicity to murder and other crimes against humanity and being part of a criminal organisation’, the paper writes.

The case comes in the wake of a lengthy American investigation into money laundering at full Rabobank subsidiary Rabobank N.A. in the Mexican border city of Calexico.

Staff at the bank, which has since closed, allegedly held back documents and failed to report suspicious transactions. According to anonymous sources the American justice department now has sufficient proof to charge the bank.

Consequences

If the public prosecutor’s office agrees to press charges it will be the first time a bank will stand accused not only of money laundering but also for the consequences this has for the Mexican population.

‘Money laundering is a not a victimless crime. Drug cartels are extremely violent and money laundering is crucial to their operations. Thanks to the banks who let them get away with it they are able to invest millions in their criminal activities,’ the paper quotes Sluiter as saying.

Rabobank spokesman Hendrik-Jan Eijpe told the paper the bank is ‘cooperating fully’ with the investigation but refused to confirm or deny if the bank knew of the presence of drug cartels in Calexico, a charge laid firmly at its door by Sluiter who said the bank ‘chose to look the other way’.

Impunity

The paper cites the case of British bank HSBC which admitted having laundered €820m for Columbian and Mexican drug cartels. The bank settled out of court and paid a $2bn fine.

According to former head of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNOCD) Antonio Maria Costa ‘banks are a law unto themselves’. ‘No banker has ever ended up in jail for money laundering. As long as governments protect them they will continue to launder money with impunity,’ the Volkskrant quotes him as saying.

Sluiter hopes his case will change what has been a trend of banks escaping prosecution and getting away with paying fines.

‘Chances are that the American investigation will end in a settlement. And the American court is not considering the damage done to the Mexican population. We want the Dutch public prosecutor to fill that gap. This case could be a precedent and help stop these criminal practices,’ Sluiter said.