Human rights campaigners have filed a criminal complaint against a Dutch bank accused of laundering money for drug cartels in Mexico, as civil society looks to address the failures of authorities to hold business to account for its complicity with organized crime.
Lawyers and activists filed the complaint calling on Dutch prosecutors to investigate and prosecute one of the Netherlands' biggest banks, Rabobank, over its alleged complicity with Mexican drug traffickers.
According to the complaint, Rabobank's subsidiary in Calexico, on the California side of the US-Mexico border "laundered structurally and for a long period of time the proceeds of crimes committed by Mexican drugs cartels," reported AFP.
"By doing this, they assisted the drug cartels in the commission of all their crimes, including crimes against humanity," the complaint adds.
US authorities have been investigating Rabobank for several years, attempting to build a case by proving bank personnel turned a blind eye to Mexican criminal organizations using branches to move dirty money.
However, the campaigners have urged Dutch authorities not to wait on the results of the US investigation but instead to launch their own investigation that examines not only the alleged money laundering but also the impact of this crime on the Mexican civilian population.
"The proceeds of crimes which are laundered by banks including Rabobank, those profits are re-invested in the criminal acts of the cartels," lawyer Goran Sluiter said at a press conference, AFP reported. "Thereby financial institutions contribute in a significant way to the suffering of the Mexican population."
Lawyers filed the complaint on behalf of Fernando Hernández, a Mexican residing in the Netherlands, who alleges Mexico's Sinaloa Cartel abducted and likely murdered his uncle in 2010.
InSight Crime Analysis
Numerous cases in recent years have revealed the complicity of major financial institutions in the money laundering operations of Mexican drug cartels, which have moved their criminal profits through banks such as HSBC and Wachovia.
However, despite the damning evidence uncovered in these investigations, criminal prosecutions of individuals have been noticeably absent, while sanctions for the businesses themselves have rarely amounted to much more than a slap on the wrist.
SEE ALSO: Coverage of Money Laundering
The decision by activists to pressure the authorities to take further action reflects the failure of authorities to address the impunity such institutions have enjoyed regarding their complicity with organized crime.
It also adds another dimension to such cases by calling for the bank to be held responsible for the atrocities committed by Mexican criminal organizations. In this respect, the activists are following the example of family members of US citizens killed in Mexico's drug war who are suing HSBC over its role in laundering money for Mexican cartels.