Dutch activists accuse Rabobank of laundering drug-money

Rabobank, one of The Netherlands' largest banks, emerged from small cooperative banks in the late 19th century serving farmers and horticulturists and is active in 40 countries (AFP Photo/LEX VAN LIESHOUT)

The Hague (AFP) - Dutch lawyers and rights activists Thursday filed a criminal complaint against Rabobank accusing the lender of complicity in money-laundering by Mexican drug cartels and urging prosecutors to investigate.

Acting on behalf of Fernando Hernandez, a Mexican now living in The Netherlands, the SMX Collective filed the complaint against the bank and its executives to the Dutch prosecution.

It accused the bank of "having laundered structurally and for a long period of time the proceeds of crimes committed by Mexican drugs cartels" via a branch of its subsidiary in Calexico, southern California, just over the border from Mexico.

"By doing this, they assisted the drugs cartels in the commission of all their crimes, including crimes against humanity," the complaint alleges.

Rabobank, one of The Netherlands' largest banks, emerged from small cooperative banks in the late 19th century serving farmers and horticulturists and is active in 40 countries.

The Calexico branch has been closed since 2015, but has been under investigation by US federal authorities amid allegations of money laundering.

But rights lawyer Goran Sluiter told a press conference in The Hague Thursday that Dutch prosecutors also had jurisdiction over any crimes committed by Rabobank, as the bank's global headquarters are in Utrecht.

He urged Dutch prosecutors not to await the results of the US investigation which he said was "likely not to cover the consequences of money-laundering for the civilian population in Mexico."

- Not victimless crime -

"Money-laundering is not a crime without victims", Sluiter said, arguing the bank had failed to scrutinise and query "unusual transactions" at the Calexico branch.

"The proceeds of crimes which are laundered by banks including Rabobank, those profits are re-invested in the criminal acts of the cartels," he added.

"Thereby financial institutions contribute in a significant way to the suffering of the Mexican population."

The Dutch prosecution service confirmed to AFP they have received a copy of the complaint and "it will be studied by the prosecutors' office."

Rabobank spokesman Hendrik Jan Eijpe told AFP the company had only just received the complaint and was not commenting on the accusations. But he added Rabobank had been "cooperating with the US authorities" and their investigation.

Hernandez said his uncle had been abducted by the Sinaloa cartel in 2010 and never seen again.

"This is the story of thousands of Mexicans ... there are 150,000, some say 200,000 people dead, because of the war on drugs," he said.

Hernandez said he did not believe Rabobank had killed his uncle, but insisted: "This human rights crisis cannot be explained without looking at the bigger picture, and ... we believe that money-laundering is one of the pieces of the puzzle."

In 2013 Rabobank was heavily fined by regulators in Britain, France and The Netherlands for conspiring with other large banks in the so-called Libor scandal, a scheme which manipulated a key reference for the dollar and the yen.

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