Colombian Cocaine Enriches the West

By McCarton Ackerman 06/04/12

Hardly any of Colombia's billions of cocaine dollars profit residents of the South American nation.

Soldiers torch a coke lab. Photo via

Despite the billions of dollars-worth of cocaine being produced in war-torn Colombia, the country isn't even profiting. New research from the University of the Andes in Bogotá claims that not only are the financial benefits mainly reaped in Europe and the US, but that financial regulators hesitate to go after Western banks in pursuit of the drug money being laundered through their system. Only 2.6% of the total street value of cocaine produced in Colombia remains in the country; 97.4% of the profits are reportedly reaped by criminal syndicates and laundered by banks in the developed world. While the lowest possible street value estimate of all cocaine produced in Colombia during 2008 is $300 billion, just $7.8 billion remained in the country. "The whole system operated by authorities in the consuming nations is based around going after the small guy, the weakest link in the chain, and never the big business or financial systems where the big money is," says co-author Daniel Mejia. Mejia says that a primary issue lies with Colombia's banks, which are subject to rigorous control to stop laundering of profits and involve excess paperwork to deposit relatively small amounts of money. Much of the drug money is said to be laundered through London—which has also become the biggest consumer of cocaine per capita—while major cities in the US and Spain also receive large percentages of Colombia's cocaine money.

Please read our comment policy. - The Fix

McCarton Ackerman is a freelance writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon. He has been a contributor for The Fix since October 2011, writing on a wide range of topics ranging from medical marijuana in Colorado to the world's sexiest drug smugglers. Follow him on Linkedin and Twitter.