Recently I went through the book about cocaine trade “Zero Zero Zero” of the Italian investigative reporter Roberto Saviano, who is famous for his book Gomorrah, a journey into the business and criminal world of the Camorra and of the places where the organization was born and lives. Saviano describes the world of cocaine in depth and his conclusions are remarkable and astonishing: the addictive drug is not simply an accessory of global markets, it is the global market, a commodity as powerful as oil or gold that underpins the world economy.

Just have a look at the statistics that are presented at the Cocaine Pulse. Only in USA, more than 2000 people are trying cocaine, for the first time, each and every day, while the number of cocaine users worldwide is estimated at least to 20 million people and in several countries is about 0.5% of the population. Although there are no exact official statistics, the global cocaine market is estimated to be around 100 billion dollars per year, almost one third of the global drug market as it has been estimated by UN.

It’s not only the fact that cocaine addiction is a kind of “must have” for many bankers, stock dealers and brokers. It’s about the role of cocaine trade in the global banking system. In 2009 alone, $300 billion of drug-trafficking money entered the financial system to be concealed and then used for legal transactions, according to the United Nations. A year later, US bank Wachovia admitted to having failed to monitor $376 billion that passed through its accounts on its way to financing Mexican drug gangs from 2004 to 2007. In 2012, British multinational bank HSBC was fined $700 million for having facilitated transactions by Mexican drug traffickers and financiers of Al Qaeda. Major banks found to have been involved in illicit transactions include ABN AMRO, Barclays, CreditSuisse and ING.

“In many instances, the money from drugs was the only liquid investment capital available… at the height of the [2008 financial] crisis,” Antonio Maria Costa, ex-head of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, told the British newspaper The Guardian in 2009. Saving argues that it was cocaine cash that kept banks afloat after the 2008 world financial crisis. In the following years 97% of money laundered by Colombian cartels passed through U.S. and European banks. As Saviano has written “Pablo Escobar was the first to understand that it’s not the world of cocaine that must orbit around the markets, but the markets that must rotate around cocaine”.

Some people go even further and suggest that there is an even worst conclusion, that the Global Banking is a ‘Super-Entity’ Drug Cartel.

Last but not least, I loved the way Saviano puts the discussion on Colombia’s role.  Why should one country pay such a high human price for the war on drugs while global bankers cash in with so little risk? This global-scale hypocrisy is what fuels Saviano’s anger. “Everyone is talking a reality you know is bogus,” he argues.

Don’t miss this great book! And next time you hear about drug cartels, you will have a better idea about who is doing what!


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