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Top Mexico Tax Official Fired for Permitting Money Laundering

ELITES AND ORGANIZED CRIME / 11 FEB 2021 BY IGNACIO RODRÍGUEZ REYNA, ZORAYDA GALLEGOS AND SILBER MEZA* EN

Mexico’s tax authority has dismissed Ramón García Gibson, one of its highest-ranking officials, for “evident conflicts of interest” and his participation in a scheme that enabled the Sinaloa and Norte de Valle cartels to use HSBC Mexico’s infrastructure to launder hundreds of millions of dollars in the early 2000s.

His dismissal occurred on January 29, four months after Quinto Elemento Lab published an investigation on García Gibson, revealing the omissions made by the former official during his stint at HSBC Mexico, where he presided over the bank’s top anti-money laundering entity.

The report laid out the findings of investigations conducted by the US Senate and revealed unpublished details of an inquiry undertaken by the National Banking and Securities Commission (Comisión Nacional Bancaria y de Valores – CNBV) about large-scale money laundering taking place at HSBC, which conclude that the bank became a “vehicle for crime, placing, concealing, legitimizing and distributing resources of illicit origin.”

*This investigation was carried out by Quinto Elemento Lab and CONNECTAS, with the support of the ICFJ, within the framework of the Investigative Reporting Initiative in the Americas (IRIA). It has been translated and edited for clarity and reprinted with permission. It does not necessarily reflect the views of InSight Crime. Read the original in Spanish here

The Tax Administration Service (Servicio de Administración Tributaria – SAT) acknowledged that the report was a key element leading to the dismissal of García Gibson, who served as the head of its Central Administration for Legal Affairs Concerning Vulnerable Activities.

“For SAT internal reviews, Quinto Elemento Lab’s investigation entitled ‘HSBC: la fiesta de los billetes rojos y los cuellos blancos,’ was one of the points of reference, as well as the report published by the United States Senate,” the SAT stated.

SEE ALSO: HSBC: Dirty Money and White Collars

SAT chief Raquel Buenrostro personally conducted the internal investigation against García Gibson after Mexico’s President Andrés Manuel López Obrador instructed her to review his professional conduct and the accusations made against him.

The report discloses the modus operandi used by HSBC employees and top banking executives to allow drug cartels to launder hundreds of millions of dollars through the bank, putting the Mexican financial system at risk.

García Gibson was president of HSBC’s Communication and Control Committee (Comité de Comunicación y Control – CCC) — the entity charged with stopping money laundering at the bank.

García Gibson’s performance at the bank was harshly criticized by his colleagues at other financial entities and by the US Senate. A report prepared by the Senate’s Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, entitled “US Vulnerabilities to Money Laundering, Drugs, and Terrorist Financing: HSBC Case History,” mentioned him 59 times.

Upon leaving HSBC in 2009, García Gibson founded an anti-money laundering consulting firm bearing his name in June of the same year.

Over time, he was invited to give talks, workshops and seminars. He also became an investigator for the National Institute of Criminal Sciences (Instituto Nacional de Ciencias Penales – Inacipe), where he developed a proposal for a national strategy to combat money laundering.

He joined public service relatively recently after a banking career at HSBC, Banamex and Santander, the latter having also defended itself against money laundering accusations made by the United States government in relation to Operation Casablanca.

In October 2015, García Gibson was appointed as director-general of inspections and evaluations within Mexico’s National Security Commission before being named as coordinator for federal police investigations into operations with resources of illicit origin from November 2016 to October 2018. In early 2019, he was named as head of SAT’s Central Administration for Legal Affairs Concerning Vulnerable Activities, a strategic position at the very top of Mexico’s tax authority.

SEE ALSO: Black Market Peso Exchange Evolving in United States

The report by Quinto Elemento Lab was published on September 21, 2020 and two days later, López Obrador ordered that an investigation be made into the SAT. “This man can no longer work within the government (…) we do not want bad officials,” he declared during his morning conference.

Four months later he was let go for “loss of confidence.”

“As a public servant, García Gibson had an evident conflict of interests as he is the partner and founder of García Gibson Consultores, S.C., which offers consulting services regarding the laundering of money and resources of illicit origins, areas where he had insider information when serving as The SAT’s Central Administrator of Legal Affairs Concerning Vulnerable Activities,” said the SAT, concerning the dismissal.

*This investigation was carried out by Quinto Elemento Lab and CONNECTAS, with the support of the ICFJ, within the framework of the Investigative Reporting Initiative in the Americas (IRIA). It has been translated and edited for clarity and reprinted with permission. It does not necessarily reflect the views of InSight Crime. Read the original in Spanish here

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