Russian anti-drug tsar Viktor Ivanov, a years-long close associate of Putin, spoke at Washington CSIS Friday. In a masterful presentation, he depicted the current international financial system as a cancerous bubble which is destroying the physical economy. But, he said, that bubble could not continue if not for drug money. He said he had shown his U.S. opposite numbers the proof that less than one-half of one percent of the drug dollars are ever seized — all the other 99-plus feed the bubble. He showed them that all the Afghan heroin money and all the Colombian cocaine money go to the same places, and enter the same banks at the same time.
This is no coincidence, he said. Wachovia, Bank of America, Hongshang, and other banks he named, not only participate in the laundering of the drug dollars, but actively seek ever-more drug dollars, as their other sources dry up.
It’s not just individual banks — it’s the whole financial system. It’s not enough to try to eliminate the drug supplies; we must take the fight to the financial market!
His last point was that a drastic transformation of the international financial system is required to liquidate international drug trafficking. He said that two weeks ago, the G20 had agreed to monitor financial flows. But we must go further, he concluded. “To a certain extent, we are observing a revival of the logic of the Glass-Steagall Act which the US adopted in 1933 in the midst of the Great Depression, which separated deposit-taking institutions from investment banks.”
The CSIS audience of State Department diplomats, FBI agents, Brookings and CIA analysts, Russian media, and the German Embassy was extremely focussed on his remarks — especially so towards the end.
One of the audience questions, which Ivanov said was a very good one, involved the links between drug-money and terrorism. Ivanov said that the Madrid train bombings of 2004, had been paid for with drug dollars. We require Russian-American collaboration against international narcotics, said Ivanov, first citing the use of satellite imagery to locate poppy-fields in Afghanistan. But the most important area for our intelligence collaboration is financial intelligence.