Jail time needed for Citigroup’s Mexican drug money-laundering


Banamex branch in San Diego, now closedCoStar Group

❝When Antonio Peña Arguelles opened an account in 2005 at Citigroup’s Banamex USA, the know-your-customer documents said he had a small business breeding cattle and white-tailed deer, ranch-raised for their stately antlers. About $50 a month would come into the account, according to the documents.❞

❝A week later, Peña Arguelles wired in $7.09 million from an account in Mexico, allegedly drug money from Los Zetas, a violent cartel founded by former Mexican soldiers, documents in his money-laundering case in Texas say. In all, Peña Arguelles shuttled $59.4 million through the account, according to a confidential report by banking regulators that berated Banamex USA in 2013 for its failure to comply with anti-money-laundering rules.

❝Banamex USA didn’t file a suspicious activity report about the account, according to regulators, even after Peña Arguelles’s brother Alfonso was killed in late 2011, his body dumped at the Christopher Columbus monument in Nuevo Laredo, Mexico, with a banner draped above it accusing Antonio of being a money launderer and stealing from the Zetas. The bank didn’t produce an activity report after U.S. prosecutors asked for the account documents at the end of that year or when Peña Arguelles was indicted in early 2012 for conspiracy to launder monetary instruments. And it didn’t file one until May 2013, months after the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. and the California Department of Business Oversight issued a written order in August 2012 demanding the bank check old accounts.❞

❝So in June 2013, when more than a dozen Citigroup and Banamex USA executives walked into a meeting to discuss progress on satisfying that order, they faced a group of angry state and national regulators. “Management and board supervision of the bank’s affairs has been critically deficient,” the FDIC and the California agency wrote about Banamex USA in the confidential report, reviewed by Bloomberg, which has never been publicly disclosed. “The willingness to accept and maintain a customer relationship identified with major illicit activity is revealing as to the board’s appetite for reputational and money laundering risk.” The report blasted Banamex USA for looking the other way and for failing to fix problems…❞

❝What the regulators’ account of the Peña Arguelles case and interviews with more than a dozen former Citigroup employees and consultants show is that Banamex USA tolerated a culture of negligence during years of moving money across the U.S.-Mexico border. And they provide a rare look into how Citigroup failed to oversee a small but risky business in one corner of its global operation. Regulators use the words failed and failure more than 60 times in their report to describe how Banamex USA didn’t comply with anti-money-laundering rules before and after being ordered to do so. The lapses are now the subject of a government investigation that could cost Citigroup hundreds of millions of dollars in fines…❞

RTFA. It goes on and on, detailing criminal practices at the behest of some of the most dangerous and corrupt gangsters on Earth.

In the words of Jerry Robinette, a former JP Morgan compliance officer, “Until you start sending people to jail, the pockets are there to satisfy the penalties…” The Department of Justice acts more like an elementary school principal than a federal agency dedicated to upholding the law. Ruling time and again that fines are sufficient punishment for moneybags banks – and the crooks who run them on behalf of thugs lower down the social ladder – is about as phony as the average Congressional re-election campaign.

If you’re a bank, big enough and powerful enough to assure drug lords safe haven for their ill-gotten gains apparently you’re also big enough not to have any of your pimps go to jail. That should end and it should end, now.

Survey of old train bridges is pretty scary

rr bridge

A survey of 250 oil train bridges across America found that almost half showed signs of considerable deterioration, including missing or crumbling concrete, partially washed-away footings, rotted pilings and badly corroded steel beams…

Determining whether the problems found by three environmental groups pose a threat to public safety is almost impossible, however, because the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) rarely inspects the nation’s estimated 100,000 rail bridges, including some built more than 100 years ago. Instead the agency leaves that responsibility to the railroads, which don’t make their inspection records public…

No bridge collapse appears to have been involved in any of the 10 fiery oil train derailments that have occurred in North America in the past 29 months.

Ed Greenberg, a spokesman for the Association of American Railroads, noted that the environmental groups’ report involves “observations by noncertified bridge inspectors,” adding that the industry “follows an aggressive 24/7 safety-first process should a bridge inspector or train crew raise a concern about a particular bridge…blah, blah, blah…

But there is no public documentation of this process, so the railroads aren’t accountable to state and local officials. The FRA says Congress hasn’t given it the authorization or resources to independently inspect rail bridges or to force the railroads to be more transparent…

The FRA receives complaints about the condition of railroad bridges almost daily, said an FRA official speaking on condition of anonymity in order to comment freely, and in most cases the problems turn out to be cosmetic rather than structural. However, the official said there’s no formal procedure for adjudicating public concerns about rail bridges and no central record kept of complaints.

Even a conservative like Ronald Reagan once said, “Trust – but verify”…America’s railroad industry hasn’t the slightest apparent inclination to invest time in transparency. We’re simply supposed to trust them – until we have a major disaster.

Meanwhile, the folks we’ve elected to Congress are following what has become standard procedure – at least for Republicans. Talk a lot, complain a lot – and do nothing.

Donald Trump supports government database of U.S. Muslims


Here’s what follows Trump’s registration plan

Donald Trump said Thursday he wouldn’t rule out warrantless searches or creating a mandatory database as part of increased surveillance of American Muslims.

“I would certainly implement that. Absolutely,” Trump told an NBC News reporter between campaign events in Newton, Iowa.

He said Muslims would be signed up at “different places,” adding: “It’s all about management.”…

Asked whether registering would be mandatory, Trump said, “They have to be.”…

While some of his rivals have been chastised by the President for suggesting that Christian Syrian refugees be given preference over Muslims, Trump has gone further in his rhetoric, advocating new restrictions on civil liberties and enhanced surveillance activities, including inside mosques.

He said earlier this week that the country was “going to have no choice” but to close certain mosques because blah, blah, blah…

The first reference to the database idea came in an interview with Yahoo News published earlier Thursday in which the billionaire real estate mogul did not reject the idea of requiring Muslims to register in a database or giving them special identification cards noting their religion.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations issued a statement Thursday condemning Trump for what the group described as “Islamophobic and unconstitutional” comments targeting American Muslims and Syrian refugees…

I thought I was joking in the past when I said I expected the Tea Party – sooner or later – to start showing up for rallies wearing Brown Shirts like Ernst Röhm’s Sturmabteilung

I didn’t realize it would be Donald Trump passing out the armbands.

Customs coppers save us all from smuggled tamales


Click to enlarge

Customs officials announced Wednesday that they seized 450 pork tamales smuggled from Mexico to Los Angeles in luggage earlier in the month.

The traveler, who was not named, admitted having food on a declaration form but denied it was pork products when questioned, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection. Inspectors then found hundreds of tamales wrapped in plastic bags.

“Although tamales are a popular holiday tradition, foreign meat products can carry serious animal diseases from countries affected by outbreaks of Avian Influenza, Mad Cow and Swine Fever,” said Anne Maricich, acting director of field operations for Customs.

Uh-huh. What’s the first country you think of when you hear about avian flu, mad cow disease and swine fever? I think most times when I’ve blogged about an outbreak of these – it’s been here in the GOUSA.