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Sunday, December 19, 2010


Martin Woods had become an expert at spotting dirty money swilling around the banking system by the time he discovered his own employer-one of America's leading banks-was helping to launder the profits of drug-dealing in Mexico. 

Woods, from Liverpool, England, had become-as he puts it-"Dick Whittington, heading south to London, seeking fame and fortune." He worked in law enforcement for eighteen years, first as an officer and detective with the London Metropolitan Police's drug squad and then as a fraud expert with the National Crime Squad, equivalent to the FBI.  For the latter, he worked on the British end of the famous Bank of New York money-laundering scandal in the late 1990s. 

In 2005 he joined Wachovia Bank as a money laundering reporting officer.  Woods filed his first serious alerts during the 2006 Lebanon war, following up reports that Wachovia accounts were being used by Hezbollah.  To his surprise, he was reprimanded for his attempts to freeze the suspect accounts. 

Later that year, he identified "a number of suspicious transactions" relating to Mexican casas de cambio ( currency exchanges ).  There were deposits of traveler's checks with sequential numbers for large amounts of money-more than any innocent person would need-with inadequate or no identity information on them, and what seemed to a trained eye to be dubious signatures. 

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