Sunday, December 13, 2009

Banking on Crime

What kept the banks minimally afloat as their irrational exuberance came home to roost and their fictitious billions went up in smoke? Drug money.

Drugs money worth billions of dollars kept the financial system afloat at the height of the global crisis, the United Nations' drugs and crime tsar has told the Observer.

Antonio Maria Costa, head of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, said he has seen evidence that the proceeds of organised crime were "the only liquid investment capital" available to some banks on the brink of collapse last year. He said that a majority of the $352bn (£216bn) of drugs profits was absorbed into the economic system as a result.

This will raise questions about crime's influence on the economic system at times of crisis. It will also prompt further examination of the banking sector as world leaders, including Barack Obama and Gordon Brown, call for new International Monetary Fund regulations. Speaking from his office in Vienna, Costa said evidence that illegal money was being absorbed into the financial system was first drawn to his attention by intelligence agencies and prosecutors around 18 months ago. "In many instances, the money from drugs was the only liquid investment capital. In the second half of 2008, liquidity was the banking system's main problem and hence liquid capital became an important factor," he said.

This raises questions about organized crime's influence on everything from the financial world to politics and law enforcement. The Obama White House steadfastly opposes even discussing the prospect of legalization or decriminalization of any currently illegal drugs. How much of that is due to pressure from a banking industry with enormous influence over this administration?

Holders of large quantities of liquid assets can make out like...ahem... bandits during a collapse. Russia following the collapse of the Soviet Union and the huge sell off of state assets is a good example. Has something similar occurred right before our eyes in the west?


Larry Gambone said...

This is wonderful. Mind if I borrow it? This is more proof of the necessity of keeping drugs criminalized. The banksters need the profits from this black market to keep their other rackets going.

Cliff said...

Feel free Larry.

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