From Prison-Industrial Complex, Corrupt Officials, Businesses, Law Enforcement, Racists and the CIA Profit From Illegal Drugs by Mark Karlin, Truthout
A recent article in The Guardian UK offers evidence that "while cocaine production ravages countries in Central America, consumers in the US and Europe are helping developed economies grow rich from the profits."
According to The Guardian UK story, the study by two Colombian professors found that "2.6% of the total street value of cocaine produced remains within the country [Columbia], while a staggering 97.4% of profits are reaped by criminal syndicates and laundered by banks, in first-world consuming countries."
One of the researchers, Alejandro Gaviria said: "We know that authorities in the US and UK know far more than they act upon. The authorities realize things about certain people they think are moving money for the drug trade - but the DEA [US Drug Enforcement Administration] only acts on a fraction of what it knows."
"It's taboo to go after the big banks," added Gaviria's co-researcher Daniel Mejía. "It's political suicide in this economic climate, because the amounts of money recycled are so high."
Since Wachovia Bank (now owned by Wells Fargo) was levied a fine in 2010 (but no criminal charges) for money laundering hundreds of millions (perhaps billions) of illegal drug cartel dollars, there does not appear to be any large crackdown on the practice in the United States, although lip service is often given to coming down hard on money laundering.
Indeed, more than one analyst has speculated that the billions of dollars in drug cash are vitally important to US banks because so many of their financial assets are tied up in non-fluid assets.
According to a 2011 article in AlterNet:
Antonio Maria Costa, former executive director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime said in 2008, "there's evidence to suggest that proceeds from drugs and crimes were the only liquid investment capital for banks in trouble of collapsing [during the financial crisis]."
If billions of dollars in drug money rescued banks and other financial institutions from closing down then it's reasonable to argue that the economy itself is addicted to drugs.