The Sinaloa Cartel reportedly used its HSBC bank accounts to transfer money for the purchase of a turboprop aircraft, painting a picture of the kind of financial transactions the cartel was able to carry out, thanks to lax international banking controls.
According to a report by Mexico‘s Attorney General’s Office which is apparently based partly on Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) findings and was seen by national newspaper El Universal, the Sinaloa Cartel bought the Super King 200 aircraft in 2007. It was later seized by Mexican authorities in December 2007 in the capital of Morelos state, in central Mexico. At the time the security forces said it had been used to transport a nearly two ton cocaine shipment from Venezuela to Mexico.
The dollars used to purchase the plane were originally deposited by two front companies — Grupo Rahero SC and Grupo ETPB — in two HSBC accounts in the Cayman Islands. The cash was then transferred to another US-registered company, Insured Aircraft Title Service Inc., in Oklahoma City.
InSight Crime Analysis
HSBC has faced an in-depth investigation into how its lax regulations allowed Mexican criminal groups like the Sinaloa Cartel to launder billions of dollars. According to El Universal, documents presented to the federal court in the Eastern District of New York, which is handling the lawsuit against the British bank, include a particularly damning affirmation by HSBC’s Mexico CEO. The CEO reportedly says he has heard a recording of a drug trafficker calling HSBC Mexico “the best place to launder money.”
The purchase of the aircraft later seized in Morelos is just one example of the transactions that the Sinaloa Cartel were likely able to carry out, thanks to the bank’s weak enforcement of regulations. El Universal reports that the aircraft was one of 13 purchased by the Sinaloa Cartel, used to ship cocaine between South and Central America. The cartel ended up transferring close to $13 million to 14 aircraft companies based in the US.
The HSBC lawsuit recently culminated with a $1.9 billion settlement.