How did you first begin getting intelligence on the Hank family?
Constantine was the head of DEA from March 1994 to July 1999.
He was interviewed by NPR's John Burnett.
The intelligence was really a product of a transition in organized crime and
drug trafficking in the United State. In beginning of 1990s, these powerful
criminal organizations based in Mexico, primarily in Tijuana and Juarez, began
to dominate the narcotics trafficking in the United States, and money
laundering of billions of dollars out of US. As a result of this, more and
more information would come in about the individuals running these drug mafias.
As then as part of that, there were frequent allegations about Carlos Hank Rhon
and the entire family, I believe, the sons and organizations and businesses.
Was it frequent intelligence, from dependable sources?
Most of the information was coming out of Mexico. It's always difficult to
assess the reliability of sources of information when you're dealing in another
country and you're not the primary law enforcement agency. But they were
frequent and they were coming from different sources in different parts of the
country. The corroboration of the information involving the allegations was
difficult, and I suspect in many cases, almost impossible to prove or
Why impossible to prove or disprove?
If we had had similar allegations about a major business figure or public
figure in US, probably investigative journalists, first, in my experience, then
governmental employees at the prosecution level, and either in legislative
hearings or actual investigations and grand juries, would eventually be able to
determine the validity of that information, or if it was invalid. That was
virtually impossible to accomplish in Mexico because law enforcement
institutions and public institutions had been weakened and compromised so much
as a result of the corruption of the drug traffickers, that there was not any
strong system to be able to pursue those facts in Mexico.
So as a career law enforcement official with years of experience
receiving intelligence, what was your gut reaction about what you were
hearing about the Hank family?
I thought it cried out for an investigation to determine if the facts were true
or not true. And I've always been someone who's had a career in this, and I
like to deal in facts and evidence. Because our eventual goal, in any place I
ever worked, is to arrest individuals or leadership of organizations and bring
them to justice. And to do that you have to have facts and it has to be more
than raw intelligence. But at the time I was there, as I said, that appeared
to be virtually impossible to accomplish.
As far as you know, from when you were at DEA and since then, has there
ever been a comprehensive investigation into the Hank family dealings?
To my knowledge, never in Mexico has there been a comprehensive investigation
of the family, or the investigations that would be commensurate with what I
would expect the standards in the United States. It would not be the type of
investigation that really could be conducted in the United States about events
that take place in another country. I think it would be inappropriate for us
to do that. And secondly, it just wouldn't be feasible.
Why would an investigation of this type have to happen in Mexico?
All of the business records, the witnesses, the auditors, the bookkeepers, the
bank managers, the narcotics traffickers, all of the people who could be
potential witnesses for you are out of your control. And what we've seen in
investigating organized crime in the US is that we pursue members somewhere in
the business, and eventually information comes out that leads to very solid
evidence for the principals of the organization. I was reading in this
morning's paper about pursuing the big auction house, Sotheby's, in which the
US attorney's office has secured cooperation of the key bookkeeper. That took
months and months and I suspect significant pressure to be able to produce that
information. All of those types of tools and levers are outside the control of
Tell me about the nature of intelligence, its general reliability?
When intelligence comes in, frequently and substantially, and there's
independent corroboration in which more than one person talks about the same
event, it cries out for a major investigation to determine one way or the other
whether its true or not. If such an investigation is conducted and it's
rigorous, and it determines there is collusion and criminal activity, then
there's a resolution to that. If it turns out that somebody has falsely been
accused, it would seem to me they would relish having a major investigation so
they can restore their credibility, and eliminate the allegations they say are
raw intelligence. But this will only be solved through a very rigorous and
Was that kind of investigation against the Hank family proposed while you
were head of DEA?
It was something that we could not do in the US. As I said before, in order to
conduct this investigation, it would have to be conducted in country where that
country lives and is the locus of all their employees and all of their
financial enterprises. That was, for us, very difficult because at that period
of time, there had been so many compromises of investigations of criminal
activity even of lower level criminals. The premise that you could share
confidential information that would deal with somebody of a level of a Carlos
Hank Rhon and his public notoriety in that country, would have meant an
immediate compromise of the information, and could get people hurt.
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