Rabobank Group: involved in whitewashing drugs money and human rights violations in Mexico

The Dutch ‘farmers bank’ Rabobank, renowned for its ethically responsible practices, has been involved in the laundering of drugs money and has therefore contributed to human rights violations along the US-Mexican border. Non-governmental organization SMX Collective files a complaint against Rabobank and demands justice for victims of drugs violence in Mexico.

Ignoring the warning signs

Rabobank Calexico is a local branch of the Rabobank Group located in Calexico, a town in California at the Mexican border. From 2002 until 2015, Rabobank Calexico engaged in the laundering of billions of dollars derived from criminal activities of Mexican drugs cartels. In these border regions, money laundering of drugs trade revenues is a widespread phenomenon and US authorities warned the Rabobank Group on multiple occasions about this issue. They have even started a federal grand jury investigation into the matter. By ignoring the warning signs, the Rabobank Group has substantially contributed to serious human rights violations perpetrated by Mexican drug cartels.

Money laundering kills

Mexican people face extreme levels of violence. The forced disappearance of 43 Ayotzinapa students in September 2014 serves as a recent example. Apart from that, more than 150,000 people have been murdered since the beginning of the drugs war in 2006 (Open Society Foundations 2016), and in 2016 the Mexican government has registered 27,638 disappeared people (Amnesty 2016). The extreme violence is caused by both the Mexican authorities, as well as the numerous drug cartels.

To commit crimes, Mexican drug cartels rely on other parties for the whitewashing of their profits. One of the most popular money laundering schemes involves a complex system of transactions called “layering” facilitated by financial institutions, allowing cartels to re-invest their dirty money back into their organization. By allowing the laundering of drugs money, these financial institutions play a vital role in the prosperity and growth of Mexican drug cartels.

Demanding real justice and accountability

Banks and governments usually reach settlements when confronted with cases of money laundering, leaving victims of drugs violence out of the equation. To break with this pattern of unaccountability, SMX Collective demands real justice for the victims of drugs violence in Mexico. We want international institutions and firms to stop financing drug cartels through the laundering of drug money, therefore we demand the legal prosecution of the Rabobank Group:

SMX Collective is asking Dutch public prosecutors to launch an investigation into the laundering of drugs money by Rabobank Calexico, and its participation in a criminal organization. Laundering money is not a victimless crime. With this claim we want to stress that laundering money is not a mere financial crime, it leaves real victims!

Call to action

Do you want to contribute to stopping the laundering of drugs money by international institutions and companies? Support our campaign and let the Rabobank Group know how you feel about their involvement in human rights violations in Mexico. Visit our website www.moneylaunderingkills.nl and see how you can file a complaint with Rabobank.

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SMX Collective

SMX Collective is a grassroots organization of Dutch and Mexican activists, academics, artists, journalists, curators and researchers concerned about the extreme impunity and violence in Mexico. The international community can play an important role in safeguarding and promoting human rights in Mexico. As SMX collective, we campaign, engage in research and debate, offer legal assistance and other means, to work together towards social justice in Mexico.

For more information, please contact SMX Collective


Today, we, the SMX Collective, take the first of many steps in the fight against the systematic human rights violations and impunity in Mexico. We are launching the campaign: “Activating Justice in Mexico: Money laundering is not a victimless crime”, and will start by filing a complaint against the Rabobank Group and its executives.

Money laundering is a serious crime that has consequences far beyond banks and financial institutions. Money laundering strengthens the violence generated by organised crime, reinforces corruption and legitimises impunity, further deepening the severe human rights crisis in Mexico.

Is it really a serious crime? YES IT IS.

Which crimes are committed under the umbrella of money laundering? There is torture; intentional killings; forced disappearance; kidnapping; extortion; theft; piracy and trafficking of people, drugs, and other illicit goods. Some of these are crimes against humanity, and all are sponsored and legitimised by money laundering.

For us, money laundering is just the tip of the iceberg. All these crimes are committed against people who have a face, a name, a family like you, like me. A long list exists of people affected by the violence funded by money laundering, including children, teenagers, men, women and journalists. According to human rights organisations, such as Amnesty International and Article 19, more than 230,000 people have been killed since 2006; 27,000 people have disappeared; more than 100 journalists have been killed and 23 have disappeared; in the city of Ciudad Juarez alone, 12,000 children have been orphaned as a consequence of this violence; 30,000 children are in some manner involved in the complex structure of organised crime; and 70,000 people are victims of human trafficking every year (about 1.5 times the Amsterdam Arena at full capacity), which produces $42 million dollars for the criminals involved.

As a prominent Mexican intellectual said when visiting Amsterdam recently: “The tragedy is that the outside world knows about impunity in Mexico and yet, the business logic prevails” (Lorenzo Meyer in The Mexican Connection, De Balie, Amsterdam 2016)

Although organised crime is part and parcel of the Mexican government, today we are focusing on the banks, specifically one bank. The SMX Collective believes that justice cannot be achieved if only the direct perpetrators are prosecuted; we demand that also those institutions like the Rabobank, that benefit from the wealth created at such high cost of human life, must be held accountable.

One of the victims of drugs violence said: “The prisons are full with people like us, yet the bankers, who have enriched themselves through drug trafficking, remain free.”

We urge the Dutch prosecutors to heed our call for an investigation into the white washing of drugs money by Rabobank Group. By upholding their own principles and commitment to protect and defend human life, above injustice and profits, we ask Dutch prosecutors not to be passive or silent. This investigation cannot end in a settlement, as so often happened in the past. We ask the prosecutors not only to investigate if the Rabobank and its executives have done enough to prevent money laundering, but also to take into account the severe human consequences this crime provoked for many Mexicans. Only criminal prosecution can bring justice to the victims and serves as deterrent for other banks.

Apart from our demands to the Dutch prosecutors, we invite everyone to support our campaign:

 Still a client of Rabobank?

  1. File a complaint against Rabobank on their website

  2. Follow and join our campaign (www.moneylaunderingkills.nl)

This is one of many steps in the fight against the systematic human rights violations and impunity in Mexico. With this case, we intend to set a precedent. We hope that in the future, financial institutions will think twice before engaging in money laundering. Finally, we would like to stress that the violence in Mexico is not that far away from the Netherlands: Mexico gets the dead while Rabobank group gets the money. In this deal it is time for Mexico to get something else: Justice!

Activating Justice in Mexico: Money laundering is not a victimless crime”

SMX Collective, Amsterdam 2nd of February 2017

Press Release Amsterdam, February 2nd 2017

SMX Collective files complaint against the Rabobank Group for drug money laundering and involvement in human rights violations in Mexico

SMX Collective, an initiative of the Dutch Foundation SMX: Dutch-Mexican Solidarity, assisted by the renowned law firm Prakken d’Oliveira, files a complaint against the Rabobank Group accusing the bank of laundering drug money and participating in a criminal organization. It concerns offenses committed at the local branch in Calexico, California, in the period December 2002 – Januari 2015. This complaint is the first of a series of activities promoted by SMX Collective to improve the human rights conditions in Mexico.

The complaint is also filed on behalf of one of the family members of a victim of drugs violence in Mexico. The complaint exposes the relationship between the laundering of drug money by banks; and the murders, disappearances, torture and other crimes committed by drugs cartels in the North of Mexico.

Gross neglect of anti-money laundering protocols

The Rabobank allegedly received enormous amounts of cash, which were transferred to other accounts as a way to disguise the criminal origins of the money. The complaint is directed against the Rabobank Group, as well as the managers of the bank. The Rabobank Group holds responsibility for its branches in the United States.

Rabobank contributes to crimes against humanity in Mexico

Rabobank is not the first bank to be accused of laundering drug money for Mexican cartels. However, this case marks the first time that the serious social and human rights consequences of money laundering for the Mexican civilian population are explicitly asked to be included in the criminal investigation.

It is public knowledge that the laundering of drug money is a major problem in the border region of the United States and Mexico, and the Rabobank Group has been warned by US authorities on several occasions. Therefore, SMX Collective believes that the Rabobank Group has been insufficient in preventing money laundering and has seriously neglected its responsibility. Thus, the bank not only played an important role in the laundering of drug money and thereby sustaining the drugs cartels; it has also significantly contributed to the serious human rights violations being systematically perpetrated by Mexican drugs cartels.

Launch of public campaign Money Laundering is not a Victimless Crime

By filing the complaint at the Dutch Public Prosecutors office, SMX Collective launches the campaign Money Laundering is not a Victimless Crime (www.moneylaunderingkills.nl) which includes numerous actions to promote human rights in Mexico. The objective of the campaign is to call attention to the fact that drug money laundering is not a crime without victims. Furthermore, SMX Collective seeks justice for the victims by holding financial institutions and firms accountable for their criminal activities.

Included you will find a summary of the complaint, background information on Mexico, as well as contact information for questions, comments and interviews. We appreciate your interest and are grateful for any help in spreading the information.

The full complaint is available on our campaign website (www.moneylaunderingkills.nl) and the website of Prakken d’Oliveira Human Rights Lawyers (http://www.prakkendoliveira.nl)

SMX Collective

SMX Collective is a grassroots organization of Dutch and Mexican activists, academics, artists, journalists, curators and researchers concerned about the extreme impunity and violence in Mexico. The international community can play an important role in safeguarding and promoting human rights in Mexico. As SMX collective, we campaign, engage in research and debate, offer legal assistance and other means, to work together towards social justice in Mexico.


About Prakken d’Oliveira

Prakken d’Oliveira Human Rights Lawyers is a law firm that champions individual interests and human rights. Our lawyers are known to be experts in their fields, with reputations reaching far beyond national borders. Prakken d’Oliveira operates in the areas of international law and human rights, migration law and criminal law and also has a number of ‘focal points’ that transcend these fields of law.


Criminal complaint against the Rabobank Group on account of money laundering and participation in a criminal organisation – summary in English

Mr. Hernandez, a Mexican citizen, and the NGO SMX Collective have filed through their lawyer, Göran SLUITER (Prakken d’Oliveira Human Rights Lawyers) a criminal complaint with the Dutch prosecution service, against Dutch bank Rabobank Group.

Mr. Hernandez’s relative, has been killed by the Sinaloa drugs cartel; the NGO SMX Collective seeks a criminal investigation in the interest of human rights protection of the Mexican civilian population.

Plaintiffs accuse the Rabobank Group of having laundered structurally and for a long period of time the proceeds of crimes committed by Mexican drugs cartels; by doing this, they assisted the drugs cartels in the commission of all their crimes, including crimes against humanity. The alleged criminal conduct took place at the Rabobank branch in Calexico, near the Mexican border, in the period between 2002 and 2015. The crimes are penalised by articles 420bis, 420ter, 420quater and 140 of the Dutch Penal Code.

The criminal complaint contains a background to the crimes, an overview of the facts, an analysis of the applicable law and explains why it is important that a criminal investigation in the Netherlands will be launched against the Rabobank.

As important background information to this complaint it needs to be mentioned that Mexican drugs cartels have risen to power for the last two decades and are responsible for widespread and systematic crimes of great severity; according to a recent report of Open Society Justice Initiative the drugs cartels in Mexico commit crimes against humanity.

It follows from many public sources that for their effective functioning drugs cartels rely on money laundering. Money laundering allows them to conceal the illegal profits of their crimes and to reinvest this money in their criminal activities. As a result, persons and institutions which launder the money of drugs cartels also carry responsibility for their crimes.

In spite of the public information available regarding the activities and money laundering by Mexican drugs cartels, especially in the border area, the Rabobank branch in Calexico has engaged in money-laundering for a long period of time. This information comes from news reports in the US and finds corroboration in other sources. The Rabobank has not publicly denied the allegations of money-laundering and at present there is a grand jury investigation on this matter in the US.

It follows from the available information that money-laundering took place in a structural manner and for a long time at the Calexico Rabobank office. This is all the more reprehensible in light of the fact that Rabobank had already been warned that its money laundering control mechanisms in the US were not adequate; in spite of this, Rabobank reduced at its American branches staff responsible for supervising unusual financial transactions.

In the legal analysis part the complaint explains, that in light of the available information, the Rabobank engaged in intentional money-laundering. By doing so, the Rabobank also participated in one or more criminal organisations, i.e. Mexican drugs cartels, aimed at the commission of extremely serious crimes such as murder and crimes against humanity.

The complaint argues, having regard to article 51 of the Dutch Penal Code providing for criminal liability for legal persons, that the criminal conduct on the part of Rabobank’s Calexico branch is attributable to the Rabobank Group as a whole, which has its seat in the Netherlands. An important element sustaining this attribution of criminal liability is the fact that –although warned- the Rabobank Group seriously failed in organising adequate control and supervision in respect of suspicious transactions.

There is jurisdiction over the Rabobank’s conduct in the Netherlands, because this is a Dutch bank. There are furthermore reasons why the Dutch prosecution service should not await the results of the American investigations. The American investigations may not extend to Dutch suspects and are likely not to cover the consequences of money-laundering for the civilian population in Mexico.

The complaint emphasises that the alleged crimes are of a very serious nature and that there is a direct Dutch interest in criminal investigations into the Rabobank’s conduct. This conduct is all the more serious in light of Rabobank claiming to adhere fully to corporate social responsibility. However, it is submitted that Rabobank has in practice not lived up to the demands of corporate social responsibility, that the Rabobank has been indifferent to the consequences of its actions and has substantially contributed to the suffering of the Mexican population.

The complaint (in Dutch and without annexes) is fully available at www.moneylaunderingkills.nl and www.prakkendoliveira.nl.