My Turn: Too big to jail?

Two articles in Wednesday’s edition of the Empire offered a fascinating contrast between how our legal system treats those at the top of the drug dealing pyramid versus those at the bottom. The Empire reported that a local business woman is facing a mandatory 10 year minimum prison sentence for conspiring to distribute $6,000 worth of methamphetamine in Juneau. Juxtaposed was the article, “US defends $1.9 B deal with British banking giant.” This article explained that banking monolith HSBC, laundered millions of dollars in drug money yet received a FINE through the United States legal system, with NO criminal charges and NO PRISON TIME for ANYONE involved.

CNN reported: “As part of an agreement deferring its prosecution, HSBC admitted that executives for years ignored warning signs that drug cartels in Mexico ( were using its branches to launder hundreds of millions of dollars through the U.S.”

We now live in a nation that has 5 percent of the world’s population, but 25 percent of the world’s prison population, almost half of which is comprised of people who are there on drug charges. Many of those drug charges relate to personal possession, rather than dealing drugs. Those who run wealthy powerful corporations like HSBC facilitate the distribution of drugs globally by laundering in excess of 400 billion dollars annually in drug profits. Yet by simply “admitting” what they have done, these powerful corporate executives miraculously escape criminal prosecution. Anyone minimally informed regarding the methods and brutality of the Mexican drug cartels knows that the hands of these HSBC executives are bathed in the blood of thousands of people who have been murdered in the course of this trade. Not only is the behavior of these banking executives criminal and amoral, but so is the behavior of our own government in looking the other way and thus condoning it. Local woman Gema Thomas will pay a steep price in prison time for her illegal behavior. The executives at HSBC will pay nothing for theirs, as their shareholders will cover the costs of this fine, which is an obscene alternative to what should be a massive criminal prosecution of all involved. The 1 percent do take care of themselves, do they not?

• Weglarz, LCSW is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker who has worked in the area of drug addiction treatment and mental health. He lives in Auke Bay.


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