The Infiltrator: How Robert Mazur Got Inside the Medellin Cartel

May 15, 2020 3 minute read

Working in compliance can sometimes remove us from the impact of the work we do. We can sometimes feel withdrawn – working in compliance can sometimes make you feel connected to money laundering but not the crimes that make the dirty money. Dangerous crimes can feel disconnected from the reality of compliance work, especially from behind a screen.

We’re teaming up with the man who helped bring down infamous drug lord Pablo Escobar and his Medellin Cartel, lifted the lid on bank collusion in money laundering and risked his life undercover to bring you his story alongside a Q&A session.

We’ll be with Robert Mazur to discuss the realities of working where organized crime and the money laundering complex of the global financial system meet.

Who is Robert Mazur?

Understanding Robert Mazur’s time as an undercover special agent for the US Customs Service (now Homeland Security Investigations) working as a mob-connected money launderer means understanding his alter ego, Bob Musella.

Musella was a false identity, one that was similar to Mazur but found differences in the subtlest of ways. It’s the only way to craft a long-term undercover identity, make it similar to who you are so the lies aren’t so complex.

Robert Mazur and Bob Musella were both college-educated, both had a background in finance and administration, anything Musella said he could do was something Mazur was capable of.

It took two years of painstaking work to craft an identity that was watertight, that wouldn’t flag any alerts in a bank to speak to a government supervisor if it spent outrageously – alerts that would be visible to any co-conspirator with the world’s most powerful drug lord, including resurrecting the dead and flying passports to embassies around the world.

Being Undercover

By the time Bob Musella became a reality Robert Mazur was a husband and a father with a young family. But he didn’t go undercover and risk untold danger because he wanted to make the world a better place for his kids, he did it because he cares about stopping the dangerous work of organized crime and exposing those in the financial system that aid them.

In addition to imprisoning some very dangerous people and their facilitators, Mazur also shone a light on the world of money laundering and exposed the seemingly clean personas of the world’s largest banks – revealing how they helped funnel money to criminals. The undercover work took place from 1986 to 1988 when money laundering was only just being formally recognized as a crime globally.

Bank Complicity

In the 1980s, some banks were pushing for income, any income, no matter the source. So long as it shifted the balance sheet further into the black they were happy. Unfettered growth objectives like that can put a dampener on combating financial crime.

Compliance was unable to prevent the work of the Medellin Cartel because at the time it simply didn’t exist in a format that recognized the issue effectively. And not enough has changed since then.

Robert Mazur has said himself, this story isn’t only his. Many people were involved in the operation and made many sacrifices to expose the damage being done by elements of the global financial system and the organized crime that used it to clean their money. But he is at the heart of this astonishing story and no-one can tell it better than him.

Join us on May 28 to hear his story in a special digital event to find out what happened in Mazur’s words and hear him explain why we must give the vital mission of preventing money laundering our all.