Posts Tagged ‘Money-laundering’

Extortion of American Stings Bolivian Officials

| December 11th, 2012 | No Comments »
Article originally appeared in the Associated Press


LA PAZ, Bolivia — It is an unlikely tale: Orthodox Jew from New York City comes to Bolivia to rescue a rice-growing venture, gets thrown in jail on suspicion of money laundering and, aided by actor Sean Penn, winds up triggering perhaps the biggest scandal yet for the country’s president.

It all began 18 months ago when Jacob Ostreicher was arrested while trying to salvage a multimillion-dollar investment he was managing for Swiss partners. After Penn directly interceded on Ostreicher’s behalf, it could now be reaching its end.

The Oscar-winning actor, who has forged friendships with President Evo Morales and other leftist Latin American leaders, presented Morales on Oct. 30 with evidence indicating the American was unjustly jailed and being fleeced.

A high-powered corruption probe moved quickly, bringing eight arrests so far in what authorities described as a band of shakedown artists, extortionists and thieves led by the No. 1 legal adviser ... Read More

An action plan for US policy in the Americas

| December 5th, 2012 | No Comments »


As US policymakers struggle to overcome sluggish economic growth while confronting abiding security threats, there is a stronger argument than ever for fortifying US partnerships with countries in the Americas whose economies and security are intertwined with America’s own economy and security. While the United States has been preoccupied with other regions, most Latin American nations have continued to modernize their market economies; two nations in particular—Brazil and Mexico—are emerging as global players. Therefore, the time is right to restore a strong bipartisan consensus in the United States that promotes a constructive, free-market growth agenda in the Americas. Practical initiatives—not rhetoric—will encourage America and its neighbors to find common ground for their collective benefit.

Key points in this Outlook:

America’s economic crisis and threats to US security have undermined its traditional global-leadership role and weakened its connections to Latin American nations that continue to modernize their economies. The ... Read More

A World Full of Troubles

| November 21st, 2012 | No Comments »
The American Spectator


We’re in a heap of trouble.

I write this while sitting in Colorado, on break from a superb seminar on defense and foreign policy sponsored by the Heritage Foundation and the El Pomar Foundation. The seminar is remarkably free of political finger-pointing and direct criticism — or even mention — of the Obama administration. Most of the material is descriptive and neutrally analytical, rather than politically prescriptive and hypercritical. But the picture being painted of a growingly dangerous world makes any sentient person question the administration’s performance in getting us into such a fix.

Our defense forces are being precipitously and unwisely hollowed out. Our capabilities in intelligence and diplomacy are inadequate. Our policies in several regions of the world are conducive not to American strength and peace, but to weakness and instability.

Take Syria. Patrick Clawson, director of research for the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, said it is ... Read More

Hezbollah linked with cartels in Latin America

| November 19th, 2012 | No Comments »
Lebanon Now


A new report submitted to the United States Congress links Lebanese Hezbollah to the drug cartels in Latin America. Besides warning of the usual terrorist threat posed by Iran and Hezbollah to the United States, the document also refers to criminal activities such as money laundering and drug trade.

The United States seem to have less and less friends in Latin America, while Iran’s popularity seems to be on a rise. Bolivia, Ecuador, Nicaragua and Venezuela, which already have strong ties with Tehran, asked in June 2012 to be removed from the Inter –American Treaty for Reciprocal Assistance signed in Rio in 1947. Even Argentina and Brazil have been slightly warming up to ties with Iran.

The report presented by the United States House Committee on Homeland Security ought not to make the US intelligence agencies happy. It sees Hezbollah and Iranian agents working with drug cartels in Mexico and ... Read More

Latin America’s Adaptive Gangsters

| November 16th, 2012 | No Comments »
Project Syndicate

BOGOTÁ – Many Latin American countries have made impressive gains in building state capacity and strengthening democracy in recent decades. And yet criminal networks – entrenched relationships between legal and illegal agents engaged in organized criminal activities – continue to play a large role in these countries’ formal and informal economies and political institutions, rending the social fabric and threatening further progress.

Criminal networks distort the most important sources of change: globalization, technology, open markets, regional cooperation, and democracy. In a context of weak institutions, persistent inequalities, and high levels of marginalization and exclusion, new growth opportunities for organized crime have emerged. Latin America has more (formal) democracy, higher foreign-trade turnover, a larger middle class, and more advanced technology than it had 20 years ago. It also has more organized crime.

These networks bypass formal institutions to take advantage of the changes in recent decades, exploiting lacunae in the international ... Read More

U.S. broker-dealers scrutinized for anti-laundering compliance in Venezuelan currency swaps

| November 13th, 2012 | No Comments »
Article originally appeared in Reuters


NEW YORK- Securities industry regulators are beginning to ask U.S. broker-dealers tough questions about how they are mitigating money laundering and sanctions risks associated with their involvement in a 2-year-old currency exchange system run by the Venezuelan government, sources familiar with the issue said.

“There are a lot of questions being asked by regulators and compliance officers,” said Sven Stumbauer, managing director of Veris Consulting Inc’s Miami office. “And some broker-dealers, especially small introducing brokers, cannot answer them.”

“Now people are looking at it and saying ‘Do we really understand the business and is there exposure for both money laundering and sanctions?’”

Buying large sums of U.S. dollars in Venezuela is not simple due to strict currency restrictions. The complex system that many importers in the South American country rely on to meet their need for American currency poses money-laundering and sanctions risks for the U.S. broker-dealers that facilitate it, anti-money laundering ... Read More

Mexico passes law to combat cartel money laundering

| October 12th, 2012 | No Comments »
Article originally appeared in Reuters


MEXICO CITY- Mexico’s Congress on Thursday approved a long-awaited law to crack down on money laundering in a bid to attack the finances of the country’s powerful drug cartels.

The law, proposed two years ago by outgoing President Felipe Calderon as part of his offensive against drug gangs, was passed by the Senate on Thursday. The lower house passed it earlier this year.

The new federal law puts restrictions on cash purchases of real estate, jewelry, armored cars and other assets that criminals use to launder illicit funds.

Companies will be required to report large cash purchases under the law. Car sales of more than 200,000 pesos (about $16,000) and real estate purchases of more than 500,000 pesos (about $39,000) must be reported.

The bill carries a minimum penalty of five years in prison.

“There is an outcry from society to weaken the financial structures of organized crime and that ... Read More

US Seizes $31 Million From Peru-Based Drug Trafficking Network

| October 11th, 2012 | No Comments »
Article originally appeared in the Wall Street Journal


Manhattan’s U.S. attorney said Wednesday the U.S. seized more than $31 million from nine bank accounts alleged to be part of a money laundering scheme operated by a Peruvian drug-trafficking organization.

The network, operated by members of the Sanchez-Paredes family, has been the target of Peruvian law enforcement since the 1980s. A civil forfeiture complaint filed Tuesday in Manhattan federal court accused the family members of using the bank accounts of shell companies and other businesses to disguise its cocaine proceeds for decades, prosecutors said.

“While this allegedly notorious drug trafficking family may be beyond our reach, the proceeds from their decade’s long money laundering scheme are not,” said Preet Bharara, the Manhattan U.S. attorney, in a statement.

The funds in the nine American bank accounts were seized pursuant to seizure warrants issued in September 2012, the statement said. Additional funds in three Peruvian bank accounts have also been frozen.

According to the ... Read More

Brazil’s Supreme Court convicts Lula aides of corruption

| October 11th, 2012 | No Comments »
Article originally appeared in Reuters


BRASILIA – Brazil’s Supreme Court convicted three top aides of former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva on Tuesday on charges of diverting public funds to buy political support for his leftist government when it came to power a decade ago.

In a landmark ruling, the court found Lula’s former chief of staff Jose Dirceu, co-founder of the ruling Workers’ Party, guilty of running a scheme of monthly payments to politicians in exchange for their votes in Congress.

The party’s president at the time, Jose Genoino, and its treasurer, Delubio Soares, were also convicted of corruption. The three men face prison sentences of between two and 12 years.

Two dozen others, including 10 legislators, bank executives and business intermediaries were convicted earlier on fraud, money-laundering or conspiracy charges in the largest political corruption case in Brazil’s recent history.

The Supreme Court has never convicted a politician for corruption before in Brazil. Politicians ... Read More

Regional governments must stay the course on drug war

| October 4th, 2012 | No Comments »
Colombia Reports

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos joined his counterparts from Mexico and Guatemala this week in issuing a joint statement to United Nations General Secretary Ban Ki Moon calling for a global debate on the efficacy of the decades-old, U.S.-led “war on drugs” and calling on the U.N. to sponsor an international conference to examine the possibility of reforms.

This effort continues a growing regional concern — manifested most recently at the Summit of the Americas in Cartagena in April 2012 — about the domestic costs that countries have borne fighting the drug scourge to feed the recreational habits of consumers in wealthier societies.

Colombia’s and others’ concerns and frustrations are completely understandable. Colombia, in particular, has paid an enormous cost in both blood and treasure over the past two decades against the criminal organizations that profit from the cultivation and trafficking of illicit narcotics.

Regional leaders have been careful in their language, but clearly they are putting on the ... Read More

Iran Creates Hizbullah Terrorist Training Base in Nicaragua

| September 6th, 2012 | No Comments »
Arutz Sheva


Iran has established a Hizbullah terrorist training base in northern Nicaragua, according to a report by local media there. Operatives are being trained at the base to attack Israeli and U.S. targets in the event of a raid on Iranian nuclear installations, according to a report quoting the media, broadcast Thursday on Israeli radio.

Some 30 members of the Lebanon-based Hizbullah terrorist organization are allegedly stationed at the base, located near the border with Honduras. The base reportedly also serves as a central hub for weapons smugglers and money laundering by organized crime lords and drug cartels.

The area has been blocked off the local residents, and all supplies are reportedly being shipped in from Tehran.

Less than two weeks ago,  a group of 18 people was arraigned in a Managua courtroom after being accused of being involved in organized crime and moneylaundering. The group, posing as Mexican journalists, were detained while entering Nicaragua from Honduras following a tip-off ... Read More

Nicaragua’s Drug Trafficking Role Grows

| September 4th, 2012 | No Comments »
Article originally appeared in the Associated Press


MANAGUA, Nicaragua — Most days the only vehicles on Highway 15 are battered trucks shuttling grain, coffee beans and cooking oil through the lush, mountainous highlands on the Honduras-Nicaragua border.

Then one recent morning, a convoy of six vans cruised down the two-lane road. All were emblazoned with the logo of the world’s largest Spanish-language television network, Televisa, and inside were 18 Mexicans with press badges, high-definition video cameras, microphones and a satellite dish.

Nicaraguan police were waiting. Acting on an anonymous tip from Honduras, officers pulled over the vans and after two days of investigation determined the occupants were falsely posing as employees of Televisa’s news division. Hidden beneath the sound boards and screens in three of the vans, officers found black gym bags stuffed with $9.2 million in cash.

The Aug. 20 seizure has pulled back the curtain on Nicaragua’s role as a conduit between South American cocaine ... Read More

Transnational Organized Crime, Terrorism, and Criminalized States in Latin America: An Emerging Tier-One National Security Priority

| August 22nd, 2012 | No Comments »
Strategic Studies Institute


Brief Synopsis

The emergence of new hybrid (state and nonstate) transnational criminal/terrorist franchises in Latin America operating under broad state protection now pose a tier-one security threat for the United States. Similar hybrid franchise models are developing in other parts of the world, which makes the understanding of these new dynamics an important factor in a broader national security context. This threat goes well beyond the traditional nonstate theory of constraints activity, such as drug trafficking, money laundering, and human trafficking, into the potential for trafficking related to weapons of mass destruction by designated terrorist organizations and their sponsors. These activities are carried out with the support of regional and extra-regional state actors whose leadership is deeply enmeshed in criminal activity, which yields billions of dollars in illicit revenues every year. These same leaders have a publicly articulated, common doctrine of asymmetrical warfare against the United States and its ... Read More

Alleged drug trafficker known as ‘Queen of the Pacific’ is extradited by Mexico to the US

| August 10th, 2012 | No Comments »
Article originally appeared in the Associated Press

MEXICO CITY — Mexican officials extradited the suspected drug trafficker known as the “Queen of the Pacific” to the United States on Thursday.

Sandra Avila Beltran was handed over at the Toluca airport outside Mexico City to U.S. marshals who took her to Miami to face federal cocaine-trafficking charges, the attorney general’s office said.

Avila had been acquitted of similar charges in Mexico and her defense argued unsuccessfully that meant she should not be extradited.

In June, a court granted the extradition so she could face the charges pending in the U.S., where prosecutors allege she also had links to cocaine seizures in Chicago. In 2001, U.S. agents intercepted a telephone call in which Avila allegedly asked for payment for 220 pounds (100 kilograms) of cocaine delivered in Chicago.

Federal prosecutors said the extradition request indicates Avila belonged to an organization that trafficked cocaine from Colombia to the United States. U.S. prosecutors allege she ... Read More

Former Mexico PRI governor pleads guilty in drug-trafficking case

| August 3rd, 2012 | No Comments »
From the Los Angeles Times


MEXICO CITY — In one of the most high-profile drug prosecutions of a Mexican politician, a former state governor has pleaded guilty in a U.S. court to charges that he helped launder millions of dollars for cocaine traffickers.

The plea was entered Thursday by Mario Villanueva, former governor of Quintana Roo state, home to the posh resort town of Cancun.

Villanueva was extradited to the United States in 2010 and could face a sentence of up to 20 years.

Before a judge in U.S. federal court, he said he had participated in a conspiracy from 1993 to 2001 to conceal the origin of illicit drug money (link in Spanish).

The original indictment said Villanueva “was paid between $400,000 and $500,000 in cash for each load of cocaine that [the Juarez cartel] brought into and shipped out of Quintana Roo,” which added up to millions of dollars in the 1990s. “In return, [he] provided state and federal police and ... Read More

Mexico Hits HSBC with $28 Million Fine in Laundering Case

| July 26th, 2012 | No Comments »
Article originally appeared in the Associated Press

MEXICO CITY –  Mexico slammed banking giant HSBC with a $28 million fine for failing to prevent money laundering through accounts at the bank.

Mexico’s National Securities and Banking Commission said Wednesday that HSBC has paid the fines, equivalent to 379 million pesos, or about half of the subsidiary’s 2011 annual profits.

The commission, and a report by a U.S. senate investigative committee, found the bank failed to control suspicious flows of billions of dollars through its accounts and didn’t respond promptly after being warned about a huge swell in dollar cash transactions at the bank.

Guillermo Babatz, president of the banking commission, said that at its peak in the mid-2000s, HSBC had become the main shipper of dollar cash transfers from Mexico to the United States, accounting for about half of the total flow, even though it wasn’t then among the country’s largest ... Read More

Google takes aim at Mexico’s drug cartels

| July 19th, 2012 | No Comments »
Article originally appeared in the Associated Press


WESTLAKE VILLAGE, Calif. — Google, so far, has won the search engine wars. Now it wants to target international crime, including Mexico’s powerful drug cartels.

Eric Schmidt, Google Inc.’s executive chairman, has taken a keen interest in Mexico, where more than 47,500 people have been killed in drug-related violence since President Felipe Calderon launched an offensive against the cartels in 2006. Schmidt recently visited most of Mexico’s most violent cities, Ciudad Juarez, where civic leaders asked if he could help.

“Defeated, helpless, these people have been so hardened in their experience with cartels that they have lost battles and they have lost hope,” Schmidt told a conference on international crime this week. “They were looking for a universal hammer to protect them. For me the answer was obvious. It was technology.”

Experts told the conference that Mexico’s cartels often use more sophisticated technology than law enforcement. Cartel assets include mapping software ... Read More

Argentina’s Black-Market Peso Plunges Against U.S. Dollar

| July 18th, 2012 | No Comments »
Article originally appeared in the Wall Street Journal


BUENOS AIRES–The value of Argentina’s black-market peso plunged Tuesday as a combination of tighter foreign-exchange controls, erratic policy changes and winter vacations led more people to seek U.S. dollars.

The peso weakened to around ARS6.60 to the dollar, according to local media reports. That puts the informal peso’s value down about 10% over the past week.

The peso’s decline coincides with the imposition of increasingly severe limits on the purchase of U.S. dollars and other currencies in the formal foreign-exchange market.

Argentina’s central bank recently said it would suspend the purchase of foreign currency for unspecified purposes such as personal or corporate savings. It also made it harder for people to buy foreign currency to use on overseas trips.

In addition, the central bank said it would prevent people from using home-mortgage loans to buy dollars. For the past 40 years, Argentine homes have been priced and sold in dollars.

The exact average ... Read More

How Much Will Mexico Money Laundering Cost HSBC?

| July 18th, 2012 | No Comments »


Earlier this year, on February 27, 2012 HSBC Holdings Plc announced that it will likely face criminal or civil charges from an expanding U.S. Department of Justice investigation into its alleged ties to suspicious money transactions.  Investigators are looking into the banks’ dealings in Mexico.

Today, July 17, executives from HSBC, one of the world’s largest banks, are expected to testify before a U.S. Senate Committee regarding questions about how lax controls may have allowed money launderers to take advantage of HSBC’s services.

HSBC is now the latest company to see its reputation damaged by allegations of money laundering in Mexico.  According to a recent Global Financial Integrity report “nearly $1 trillion in illicit capital left Mexico from 1970-2010, averaging about $50 billion a year this past decade.’

The U.S. State Department estimates that drug cartels launder between $8 billion and $25 billion from the US annually.

Mexico’s government has made many ... Read More

GOP Attacks Obama for Downplaying Chavez Threat

| July 12th, 2012 | No Comments »
Article originally appeared in the Wall Street Journal


Heavyweight Republicans, including presumptive presidential nominee Mitt Romney, have found  a fresh flank to attack President Obama’s foreign-policy chops: Venezuela. Mr. Romney and other leading Republicans lambasted Mr. Obama’s “naiveite” after he told a Miami-based media outlet that Venezuelan strongman Hugo Chavez “has not had a serious national security impact on us.”

That set off alarm bells in conservative quarters. Mr. Romney found the idea “stunning and shocking,” while Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio found it disturbing, evidence of the President’s “alarmingly naïve understanding” of the challenges facing the country in its own backyard. Not to be outdone, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, chairman of the House foreign affairs committee, went full Nero: “While Obama fiddles, our region is set on fire by the enemies of the U.S,” she said in a statement. (More here.) White House spokesman Jay Carney was peppered with queries Wednesday; he had no comment.

Obama campaign spokesman Ben LaBolt said in a statement: “Because of President ... Read More

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