BROWNSVILLE, Tex. -- An executive of American Express Co.'s banking subsidiary was convicted of laundering $30 million for a Mexican drug empire.

Antonio Giraldi of American Express Bank International was found guilty of conspiracy, 10 counts of money laundering, two counts of bank fraud, and four counts of misapplication of bank funds.

Mr. Giraldi's former assistant, Lourdes Reategui, was convicted of conspiracy, one bank fraud count, and four counts of misapplication of funds. She was acquitted of the 10 money laundering charges.

Federal prosecutors charged that the American Express Bank International employees knew they were handling tainted money. The defense said the bankers made routine, legal transactions for a man who fooled them into believing he was legitimate.

Sentencing was set for Aug. 12. Defense attorneys vowed to appeal.

Mr. Giraldi is a senior vice president in the bank's Miami office. The transactions in question occurred in 1989 and 1990, when he worked at Bankers Trust New York Corp. and American Express Bank International in Beverly Hills, Calif.

Ms. Reategui, his assistant in Beverly Hills, now works for a Los Angeles real estate firm.

Drug Proceeds

The defense never disputed the government's contention that the assets of Ricardo Aguirre Villagomez, a Mexican gas station manager, were proceeds from a drug organization allegedly headed by Juan Garcia Abrego, who is wanted in the United States and Mexico.

But defense attorneys called Mr. Aguirre a master manipulator who fooled experienced bankers into believing he earned his money in ranching and other businesses.

Mr. Aguirre disappeared in early 1993 after a task force led by the U.S. Customs Service froze his assets. Aguirre's family says he died in an auto accident in Mexico, but U.S. authorities believe he faked his death to go into hiding.

The bank is seeking a court order to free Aguirre's assets so the loans can be repaid. Government prosecutors, however, want to seize the money under civil forfeiture laws.

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