The annual global drug trade’s estimated value has passed $435 billion according to data from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).
While governments across the world, including the United States, spend countless dollars on the war on drugs, their true intentions are not as it seems.
Whether it be Marijuana or Heroin, rogue elements in the federal government have assured that the drug trade will continue to grow.
Despite occupying the nation of Afghanistan for more than a decade, the U.S. government’s presence in the region has only helped Opium production reach record levels.
U.S. troops, who began receiving orders to protect Opium fields throughout Afghanistan at the beginning of the war began relaying their stories to fellow soldiers back home. Faced with a major scandal, the U.S. government used multiple news outlets to release white-washed stories on the military’s role in helping the drug trade, claiming they had no choice in order to fight the Taliban.
Even with their attempts to portray their clear control over Opium as humanitarian based, further investigations were quick to dissolve that myth.
In 2009, a report from the New York Times revealed that the country’s largest heroin dealer was working directly with the Central Intelligence Agency, a group known to be involved in the drug trade since its inception.
“Ahmed Wali Karzai, the brother of the Afghan president and a suspected player in the country’s booming illegal opium trade, gets regular payments from the Central Intelligence Agency, and has for much of the past eight years, according to current and former American officials,” the report says.
Back at home, criminal elements of the federal government are busy on the U.S. border, working directly with the world’s most dangerous drug cartels.
A 2011 report from the El Paso Times which uncovered documents filed in a U.S. federal court revealed how federal agents helped the Sinaloa cartel bring cocaine across the border.
“According to the court documents, Mexican lawyer Humberto Loya-Castro, another high-level Sinaloa cartel leader, had his 1995 U.S. drug-trafficking case dismissed in 2008 after serving as an informant for 10 years for the U.S. government,” the article states. “Loya himself continued his drug trafficking activities with the knowledge of the United States government without being arrested or prosecuted.”
While the government attempted to pass the incident off as run-of-the-mill informant work, a 2014 report from the Business Insider showed an even deeper involvement.
“An investigation by El Universal has found that between 2000 and 2012, the U.S. government had an agreement with Mexico’s Sinaloa drug cartel that allowed the organisation to smuggle billions of dollars of drugs in exchange for information on rival cartels.”
Although billions in drug money would normally tip off any bank, major financial institutions have colluded with the government to keep the cash coming in.
A 2011 report from The Guardian detailed a 22-month long investigation which uncovered the role of Wachovia bank, owned by Wells Fargo, in laundering hundreds of billions in cash for the Sinaloa cartel, the same cartel working hand-in-hand with the federal government to ship in narcotics.
“The authorities uncovered billions of dollars in wire transfers, traveller’s cheques and cash shipments through Mexican exchanges into Wachovia accounts,” the report states.
In all, more than $378.4 billion in laundered drug money was uncovered by federal prosecutors.
“Wachovia’s blatant disregard for our banking laws gave international cocaine cartels a virtual carte blanche to finance their operations,” said Jeffrey Sloman, the lead federal prosecutor.
Other major banks such as HSBC have been caught helping drug cartels as well.
“HSBC actively circumvented rules designed to ‘block transactions involving terrorists, drug lords, and rogue regimes,'” writes Forbes‘ Agustino Fontevecchia after the bank was outed.
Despite widespread reporting in the HSBC case, the bank has continued to launder drug money due to its “too big to fail” status according to HSBC whistleblower Everett Stern.
With endless cash to be made in aiding both sides of the drug war, including the funds from imprisoning millions of non-violent offenders, the “battle” may very well continue as it has for decades.