|June 25, 2012
A lack of any criminal prosecutions associated with the U.S. government’s deal last week in which Dutch bank ING agreed to forfeit a record $619 million for helping Iranians and Cubans pump billions of dollars through the U.S. financial system has drawn accusations that U.S. law enforcement agencies would rather collect fines than punish individual executives.Authorities dispute the criticisms and say proving wrongdoing by individuals in such cases is harder than it seems.
“It seems like the only people the government wants to prosecute are low-level drug dealers who structure cash deposits at banks. They go to jail,” said retired Drug Enforcement Administration agent Bob Mazur. “But institutions that commit massive crimes to move billions of dollars simply pay fines. Maybe this is considered by the government to be too lucrative a revenue stream to worry about putting people behind bars.”
Mazur said ING is just the latest in a long line of international banks that have failed to comply with U.S. anti-money laundering, tax and sanctions laws and when caught simply paid fines, which total billions of dollars, to resolve the matters. Mazur is the author of “The Infiltrator,” a book about his undercover work in the 1980s that helped bring down the corrupt Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI).
The Justice Department and New York County Attorney General’s Office, which together have handled the high-profile cases that Mazur criticized, said they will always bring criminal charges where evidence permits.