Drug War on trial

By Chuck Armsbury, Senior Editor

Accused turns accuser as NarcoNews.com publisher Al Giordano prepares to put the War on Drugs on trial in a New York State courtroom. Actually, Giordano and his drug war news service, The Narco News Bulletin, are the 'accused', or defendants, in a lawsuit (case # 00 Civ 8941 HB, Southern District of New York) filed last August by the Banco Nacional de Mexico, or Banamex. At issue is Giordano's detailed exposure of Banamex as a leading money-laundering bank for kingpin drug traffickers. Razor Wire readers may recognize Giordano and NarcoNews.com as sources for stories we've carried in past issues about the drug war in Mexico, Colombia and elsewhere in North and South America.

Roberto Hernández Ramírez, president of Banamex, complains that plantiffs Giordano, Mario Renato Menendez Rodriguez and the Narco News Bulletin, collectively, are not just exposing money laundering corruption north and south of the border but are, in fact, defaming Ramirez and Ban-amex with "prospective economic advantage" in mind. Ramirez, through attorneys, complains that this alleged 'extortion' arises out of "a coordinated campaign by Defendants to impugn Banamex and the management of its business through knowing false statements of fact. In a series of personal appearances in New York, and in writings that originated here, Defendants have maliciously smeared Banamex with accusations that, among other things, it is controlled and operated by narcotics traffickers and has engaged in illegal activity. Defendants' assertions, which are provably false, have caused Banamex to suffer serious damage to its reputation, including pecuniary harm. Banamex brings this action to clear its name in New York of the Defendants' false and malicious accusations, and to recover compensation for its injuries." (quoted from opening page of lawsuit).

Giordano insists that Banamex is trying to bury the accusations that have been published in various media about him for drug trafficking and money laundering. The lawsuit, filed in the New York Supreme Court, is an attempt to "silence and discredit us in order to discredit the published accusations, since he already doesn't have the elements to refute the facts upon which the reports that accused him were based," said Giordano in a recent interview with writer Beatriz Fregoso.

The former Boston Phoenix journalist who now writes from 'somewhere in America' warns that the case is going to be politicized. "We have all the elements for that: international narco-trafficking, money-laundering, government persecution against journalists and photographs of cocaine containers in the pristine coastal lands of Quintana Roo that belong to the banker."

"The Banamex owner wanted to silence us," he said, "and what he is going to succeed at doing is to place the narco-system and its bastard child, the war on drugs, in the seat of the accused." Soon the parties will begin to spar and maneuver in court, but there will be no pre-trial conferences. Giordano insists no 'deals' will be made, saying that, "Roberto Hernández has already lost in advance because he has failed to silence us."

He stressed that the banker knows that neither of the accused journalists has the money needed to mount a defense to this lawsuit. "This lawsuit is about harassment and intimidation. The fact that to defend oneself from any lawsuit in New York costs hundreds of thousands of dollars," he said, adding that the cost of court documents alone is going to cost him around $100,000.

And why hasn't Banamex sued media like El Universal, AP, the Wall Street Journal, the Boston Phoenix or the Village Voice that published the same facts? "Because they know they have a weak case, and anyone with a minimum capacity to pay for a legal defense can prove it," Giordano said. Banamex is aware Al and Mario have little money, but rumor is they may attract some renowned legal help for the battle as it heats up in court.
Most appetizing to Giordano is the possibility of putting the war on drugs in the seat of the accused. Giordano explains: "In the United States, to win a lawsuit for libel, they need to prove malice on the part of the accused. As I see things going, I think that Mario and I might spend days and days in the witness chair to explain all that we knew about this theme. In this sense, a lot of information that is unknown or ignored about drug trafficking and its complicities is going to come to light in New York."

Asked if he was disposed to come to a legal agreement with Banamex outside the court if Ramirez solicits that at some point, Giordano said firmly, "No deals: I don't make deals with these kind of people. I have to preserve my integrity."

For information and updates go to: www.narconews.com