Just before sunset on April 10, 2006, a DC-9 jet landed at the international airport in the port city of Ciudad del Carmen, 500 miles east of Mexico City. As soldiers on the ground approached the plane, the crew tried to shoo them away, saying there was a dangerous oil leak. So the troops grew suspicious and searched the jet.
They found 128 black suitcases, packed with 5.7 tons of cocaine, valued at $100 million. The stash was supposed to have been delivered from Caracas to drug traffickers in Toluca, near Mexico City, prosecutors later found. Law enforcement officials also discovered something else.
The smugglers had bought the DC-9 with laundered funds they transferred through two of the biggest banks in the United States: Wachovia Corp. and Bank of America Corp.
This was no isolated incident. Wachovia, it turns out, had made a habit of helping move money for Mexican drug smugglers. San Francisco’s Wells Fargo & Co., which bought Wachovia in 2008, has admitted in court that its unit failed to monitor and report suspected money laundering by narcotics traffickers – including the cash used to buy four planes that shipped a total of 22 tons of cocaine.
Full story: U.S. banks’ role in Mexican drug trade