Bennett Takes Stern Stand on Money Laundering

From Associated Press

Drug policy director William J. Bennett said Sunday he would support "something analogous" to the death penalty for high-level bankers who launder drug money.

Bennett has said he supports the death penalty for convicted drug kingpins and, in an appearance on NBC-TV's "Meet the Press" program, he said bankers who knowingly handle drug cash should be treated similarly.

"If we're talking about capital punishment for people who are high-level drug dealers, we ought to be talking about something analogous for the high-level banker who trades in drug cash," he said.

President Bush's proposed drug control strategy calls for expanding the circumstances under which convicted drug kingpins could face the death penalty.

Bennett's comment came during questioning about a case in which the Luxembourg-based Bank of Credit & Commerce International pleaded guilty in January to cocaine-related money-laundering charges and agreed to forfeit $14 million and help prosecutors who say the case has ties to ex-Panamanian leader Manuel A. Noriega.

Bennett indicated he was concerned that the sentence was light and said he raised that concern with Bush "and he agreed."

But asked whether he was troubled that the bank was still in business, he said: "Not until the story's over. I want to see where the investigation comes out."

He said the case is part of an ongoing investigation and that he and other officials will continue to monitor it.

Bennett said he hopes for greater military cooperation between the United States and South America's cocaine-producing countries to stop the flow of illegal drugs.

"Will there be cooperation between Colombia and the United States, other countries and the United States involving military cooperation?" he said. "I think there will be."

He added: "I would not be surprised if in the future we have discussions with President Barco (of Colombia) and other presidents about the ways in which U.S. military intelligence . . . can be useful to them."

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