Sessions is tough on crime and Mexico — but not big banks who let cartels launder money


Attorney General Jeff Sessions is tough on crime. He's tough on immigration. His Justice Department wants to bring back the strictest penalties issuable for low-level drug offenses while Immigration and Customs Enforcement ramps up their controversial raids on undocumented immigrants who have committed no crime.

Unless, that is, it's a bank committing crimes. 

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Earlier this week, the Department of Justice agreed not to prosecute Citigroup's Mexican subsidiary Banamex, which failed to bring attention to over a billion dollars in strange transactions flowing into Mexican accounts. Instead, the bank has to pay a fine about equal to how much money they made on the deals, and promise to not do it again.

In the past, Banamex has turned a blind eye to money laundering by Mexican cartels. The laundering often includes incidences of hundreds of small transactions at a time coming from different senders and collating in massive overseas accounts. In one of the latest cases, for example, a beneficiary collected $824,102 from over 950 senders in 40 states.

So while undocumented immigrants who have committed no crimes are being deported at record rates, banks that have historically facilitated money laundering through drug cartels are getting a slap on the wrist. 

It's impossible to know exactly how many transactions exactly might have been from criminal money laundering on behalf of individual account holders or by cartels. We'll never know. Those kinds of details remain secret when the Justice Department decides not to prosecute.