Tag Archives: Money laundering

Putin’s Cronies Helped Russian Mafia In Spain, Prosecutors Say: Report

Vladimir Putin
Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a session of the Civic Chamber at the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, on June 23, 2015.

One of Russia’s largest mafias operated out of Spain for more than a decade with help from some of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s cronies, prosecutors in Madrid said.

A 488-page complaint to the Central Court obtained by Bloomberg News alleged direct links between Moscow officials and the St. Petersburg-based crime organization Tambrov, which allegedly moved into Spain in 1996 to launder profits from its criminal activities.

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3 Famous Billionaire Drug Kingpins and the Art They Adored

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In the wake of the daring prison escape pulled off on July 11 by notorious Mexican drug lord Joaquin Guzmán, aka “El Chapo” (shorty), artnet News looked into how big a role art has played in his illicit activities and money laundering.

Continue reading 3 Famous Billionaire Drug Kingpins and the Art They Adored

Organized crime on the rise in Germany

The annual report into organized crime, presented in Berlin on Wednesday by interior minister Thomas de Maizière, showed a 7.2 percent increase last year in the number of investigations into organized crime.

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60 arrested in El Cajon Chaldean organized crime case

— For its many regulars, the Chaldean social club in El Cajon is a place to drink tea or coffee, play Dominoes and discuss the news of the day.

But federal and local authorities say the social club, tucked in a nondescript brick strip mall behind a metal security door, is also the headquarters of an Iraqi drug- and gun-trafficking organization with ties to a Mexican drug cartel and a Detroit crime syndicate.

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Sixty people associated with the social club at 811 E. Main St. have been arrested over the past 10 days in the investigation, dubbed “Operation Shadowbox,” and investigators were continuing to hunt for others implicated in the scheme.

SWAT teams served search warrants on the club late Wednesday night, seizing more than $16,000 in cash as well as evidence of illegal gambling, authorities said.

The Chaldean social club, at 811 E. Main St., in El Cajon. Investigators allege the club is the hub of an Iraqi drug- and gun-trafficking organization.

More than 100 people inside the club at the time were detained and then released.

The cornerstone of the alleged operation involves club members arranging narcotics shipments from Mexico with help from the Sinaloa drug cartel. The illicit products were then trafficked to the Chaldean Organized Crime Syndicate in Detroit, officials said.

The syndicate has operated since the early 1980s in Detroit, which has the largest concentration of Chaldeans in the nation, and has been associated with crimes including murder, arson, money laundering, fraud, human smuggling, kidnapping and armed robbery.

The El Cajon area boasts the second-largest concentration of Chaldeans, with a population of more than 47,000.

Undercover agents made several drug buys over eight months, in El Cajon and around San Diego County, with the amounts getting bigger and bigger, said El Cajon Police Chief Pat Sprecco. Agents and confidential informants also purchased or were offered guns, explosives and even a hand grenade supplied from a Mexican military source.

The operation began in January, two months after Sprecco asked the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration for help to combat a spike in drug sales and violence on the city’s streets.

After a number of hand-to-hand undercover drug buys, investigators realized all roads led to the social club, Sprecco said.

The club has long been a source of complaints from the public and a suspected hub of criminal activity, officials said.

Crimes documented there have included attempted murder, drug sales, gambling, illegal liquor sales and firearms sales.

Complaints have also been plentiful over the years. Wives of men who attend the club have complained about how their family’s money is being gambled away.

Neighbors have complained about drug sales and prostitution. Even club members have registered their distaste for a criminal element hanging around the club.

Investigators learned that the club managers were aware of the criminal activity and demanded a portion of the proceeds. Armed guards are often on hand during high stakes card games, Sprecco said.

There have been a number of busts and arrests at the club over the years, including a 1998 investigation into illegal gambling and a 2009 probe of gun and grenade sales.

Infiltrating the tight community of Iraqis proved to be difficult, Sprecco said. Help from the DEA, as well as from a host of state and federal agencies, helped strike at the heart of the organization this time, he said.

“We didn’t expect this level of success,” Sprecco said. “We were happily surprised with the inroads of this investigation.”

Eight defendants, including one of the alleged leaders, Nofel Noel Suleyman, 22, were arraigned in federal court in San Diego Thursday afternoon, and a ninth has also been indicted.

At least 21 defendants are being prosecuted by the District Attorney’s Office, mostly on methamphetamine-related charges.

Other agencies that participated included Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Border Patrol, Internal Revenue Service, sheriff’s and FBI bomb squads, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

“This is one case that has the ability to have a real impact on life and on the enjoyment of the quality of life,” said San Diego U.S. Attorney Laura Duffy.

The investigation has culminated in the seizure of more than 13 pounds of methamphetamine; more than 5 pounds of ecstasy, pharmaceuticals, crack cocaine, heroin and cocaine; and more than 3,500 pounds of marijuana, most of which was likely smuggled through maritime routes controlled by the Sinaloa Federation.

The cartel, headed by one of the world’s most wanted men, Joaquin “El Chapo,” Guzman Loera, has recently been allowed access to areas the Tijuana cartel once controlled.

Investigators also seized more than $630,000 in cash, three luxury cars, 34 firearms and four improvised explosive devices. The club has been shut down by the city and will undergo an abatement process.

Several club patrons said Thursday that for the most part the club hosted good Chaldeans who were just there to socialize. But they said the club also drew a bad element, with illegally stashed liquor and people doing drugs in the back alley late at night.

Saud Khairo, who has run the Kevin’s Hair Salon barbershop at the front of the strip mall for 12 years, said he hopes the raid will help his business by bringing back customers who may have been scared away by the club’s activities.

Mark Arabo, a local Chaldean and president of the Neighborhood Market Association, applauded police for making the city safer.

“This in no way, not even a half of one percent, is representational of the Chaldean community at large,” Arabo said. “Chaldeans are hardworking, great family people, Christians and give back to the community. There are so many great things Chaldeans do for the community, so this just comes as a shock.”

Top Tibetan Monk On Money Laundering Charge

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A Tibetan monk seen as a possible successor to the Dalai Lama is to be prosecuted for money laundering.

The decision to prosecute Karmapa Urgyen Trinley comes after an Indian court overturned a decision to drop charges.

A judge at the Himachal Pradesh High Court issued an order for authorities to open criminal proceedings over the recovery of around $1m (£650,000) in foreign currency during a raid on his Buddhist monastery four years ago.

Criminal conspiracy charges were filed after the raid but a district court in 2012 dismissed the case but the latest appeal means Trinley now faces judicial proceedings.

The case dates back to a raid in January 2011 on a monastery in the Himalayan town of Dharamshala in which investigators say stacks of bank notes in 26 different currencies were recovered, including the equivalent of £65,000 in Chinese yuan.

The raid came after police stopped two people driving a car that was full of cash – the pair said the money was intended for a land deal involving a trust run by Trinley.

Khenchen Lama Rinpoche will give three separate public teachings at The Friends Meeting House, Kettering, on Monday, July 13

The 30-year-old has denied any wrongdoing, saying the bank notes were donations from devotees gathered over the years and he was not involved in any land deals.

The monk, who fled Tibet at the age of 14, is recognised by both China and the Dalai Lama as the reincarnation of the Karmapa Lama, the 17th incarnation of the head of the Karma Kagyu lineage, one of the four major schools of Tibetan Buddhism.

Since fleeing Tibet and reaching India after an eight-day journey on foot and horseback, Trinley has lived mainly at the Gyuto Monastery in Dharamshala, the northern Indian hill station that is the seat of the Tibetan government in exile.

He is seen as having the highest profile of an array of young lamas who could succeed the 80-year-old Dalai Lama.

Their appearances together have increased speculation he is being groomed as the Nobel peace laureate’s spiritual successor.

Trinley’s spokesman, Kunzang Chungyalpa, said the lama had great faith in India’s judicial system.

“He strongly believes truth will prevail at the end.”

The human toll of FIFA’s corruption

In the end, it only took a $150 million scandal to make Americans care about soccer. FIFA, the notoriously corrupt and yet seemingly invincible governing body of world soccer, has finally landed itself an indictment that some would say is worthy of its reputation.

The charges against a handful of senior FIFA officials include money laundering, racketeering, bribery and fraud. In short, the federal lawsuit alleges what millions of soccer fans have suspected all along: that FIFA officials have been using the organization’s massive influence to line their pocketbooks.

On the surface, it’s just another white collar crime story: rich, powerful men making themselves richer and more powerful. But a closer look suggests that there is a lot of real-world suffering happening as a direct result of FIFA’s decisions.

For the most obvious example of this, look to Qatar. The decision to award the 2022 World Cup to the rich Gulf state with a terrible human rights record was a controversial one right out of the gate. There have been extensiveallegations of bribery: why else, some figured, award the Cup to a tiny country with sweltering summer heat and no soccer culture to speak of?

A rendition of a planned World Cup stadium in Qatar. (AP Photo/Qatar’s Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy)

Human rights advocates’ worst fears about Qatar seemed to be confirmed as Qatar began building the infrastructure to host the Cup, and reports of migrant worker deaths started to pile up. The numbers, to the extent that we know them, appear startling:

A Guardian investigation last year revealed that Nepalese migrant workers were dying at a rate of one every two days. In sum, the Guardian put the total Qatar death toll of workers from Nepal, India andBangladesh at 964 in 2012 and 2013.

It is hard to know how many of those are specifically World Cup associated. Hundreds of thousands of migrant workers come to Qatar each year, and there could be hundreds of deaths even without a World Cup — figures from the Indian embassy show, for instance, that 200+ Indian workers died in Qatar in 2010, before the World Cup announcement.

But the numbers could also be worse: a report by the International Trade Union Confederation has estimated 1,200 deaths so far, with up to 4,000 additional worker deaths by 2022.

In the chart below, I’ve compared those fatality numbers for Qatar with worker fatality estimates for other major international sporting events in recent years. Some of these numbers (like Sochi’s) are third-party estimates, others (like Beijing’s) are based on official numbers that are almost certainly an undercount.

And it’s tough to do an apples-to-apples comparison here, since the Qatar estimates include the deaths of all migrant workers after the announcement of Qatar’s successful bid in 2010, while other countries’ figures may only include deaths directly related to, say, stadium construction.

If current trends continue, the ITUC estimates that 4,000 workers will die in Qatar by the time the World Cup is actually held in 2022. Qatar officials have previously pledged to address worker safety concerns.

“We believe that the people helping us build our country deserve to be fairly paid, humanely treated and protected against exploitation,” the country’s labor ministry told the Guardian.

“That is why we are reforming our labour laws and practices.”

Still, it’s clear that Qatar has a troubled record when it comes to poor worker safety. Conditions for migrant workers there are so bad that the International Trade Union Confederation has called the state “a country without a conscience.”

Many of the abuses of migrant workers in Qatar and other Gulf countries are related to a governing system called “kafala,” which dictates how migrant workers may enter the country.

The system has been criticized for essentially placing workers under the complete control of their employers and leaving the door wide open for exploitation and abuse.

In the light of the new Justice Department investigation, Swiss authorities are announcing a new inquiry into the process that gave Qatar the cup in 2010. If FIFA board members did indeed accept bribes from Qatar to let it host the 2022 cup, it would show how backroom corruption can have real human consequences.

Mexican Drug Cartels Expand Reach In Peru

LIMA, Peru — When police here unearthed nearly 8 tons of cocaine — a national record — hidden inside lumps of coal late last month, it was little surprise that two Mexican citizens were also arrested.

The brutal Mexican cartels that control the drug routes from remote Andean villages where raw coca plants grow to the world’s largest consumer market, the United States, are known to have been present in Peru since the 1990s.

Nevertheless, the haul found in a small seafront warehouse in Huanchaco, a fishing village known for its surfing on Peru’s northern coast, stood out for another reason: It was bound not for the US but, in two separate shipments, for Spain and Belgium.

“What is surprising is that this implies a change in the criminal map,” said Peru’s former anti-drug czar Ricardo Soberon. “For Mexicans to be running drugs from Peru to Europe, without it ever going anywhere near Mexico — wow!”

There may be little mystery about the Mexicans’ motivations, which appear rooted in basic economics.

“The European market is more profitable than the American market,” notes Flavio Mirella, the head of the Peru branch of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. “Demand pushes supply.”

That is largely a reflection of street prices. One gram of cocaine in Europe cost on average $191 in 2010, according to Mirella’s agency, compared to $169 in the US.

Little has been revealed about the two Mexicans arrested, beyond their names, Ruben Larios Cabadas and Jhoseth Gutierrez Leon. Police say they are suspected members of Mexico’s Sinaloa cartel, in Peru to oversee the European shipments by two companies, Carboniferas Alfa & Omega and Betas Andinas del Peru.

Mexicans suspected of trying to smuggle 7.6 tonnes of cocaine to Europe are escorted by police officers after their arrival to the police airport in Lima, September 4, 2014. Peruvian police seized a record 7.6 tons of cocaine in a quiet coastal town on August 26th, arresting seven Peruvians and two Mexicans, according to Peru’s Interior Ministry.

Image: Mexicans suspected of trying to smuggle 7.6 tonnes of cocaine to Europe are escorted by police officers after their arrival to the police airport in Lima

The pair, along with six Peruvians who were also arrested, is now being questioned in Lima. Peruvian police have also asked their Mexican counterparts for information about the alleged boss of the operation, Lee Rodriguez, known as “El Duro,” or “the tough one.”

Both companies were founded in 2011 with a total initial capital of around 60,000 soles (roughly $21,000) and are thought to have realized 30 shipments of coal to Europe since then.

At least some of those would have been without cocaine, as the traffickers sought to evade detection and make their venture appear legitimate.

But Soberon speculates that around 20 would have contained cocaine. Assuming they each involved similar amounts of drugs as the intercepted shipments, then, doing some back-of-the-envelope math, he calculates that the operation would have already sent cocaine with a street value of $2.8 billion to Europe.

“The scale of the seizure shows that they felt very safe storing their drugs there [in the warehouse],” he adds. “This just shows that in Peru the narcos are using every possible means to get their drugs to market, drug mules on commercial flights, down the Amazon river to Brazil, over the Bolivian border, light aircraft from the VRAE, and now this as well.”

Image: Anti-narcotics officers burn bags of the cocaine seized last week near Trujillo at a special operation police headquarters, in Lima

Anti-narcotics officers burn bags of the cocaine seized last week near Trujillo at a special operation police headquarters, in Lima September 3, 2014.

Peruvian police seized a record 7.6 tons of cocaine in a quiet coastal town on August 26th, arresting seven Peruvians and two Mexicans suspected of trying to smuggle the load to Europe as coal, according to Peru’s Interior Ministry.

Peru is now the world’s top cocaine producer. There are no official estimates of how much the country actually makes, but experts agree the figure would be in the low hundreds of tons each year.

Most of that, along with Bolivian cocaine, heads to Europe or Asia or is consumed in South America. The US market is supplied overwhelmingly by Colombia.

Mexico is making inroads in this region. Officials have detained dozens of Mexican cartel operatives over the last five years across South America, where they launder money, move drugs, or hide out from law enforcement back home.

This year alone, police have arrested alleged Mexican drug traffickers in Argentina, Ecuadorand Brazil, among other countries.

Mexican gangsters first stepped into the cocaine trade in the 1980s, when Colombian cartels hired them to move the white powder over the border into the United States to fuel its booming multibillion-dollar market.

The Colombians turned to the Mexicans after US drug agents backed by the military managed to squeeze the Caribbean route where cocaine was flown or shipped into Miami. The 1,954-mile US southern border proved much harder to police.

However, while the Mexicans began as paid couriers, they gradually ate more and more into the cocaine-trade pie, taking over distribution, sales and transport from the south.

By the early 2000s, the Mexicans were buying up vast quantities of cocaine from producers in Colombia — for some $2,000 per 1-kilogram brick — and owning the rest of the chain.

Now, US drug agents say, their expansion into Peru has been so extensive that the Mexicans even run their own cocaine laboratories here.

Yet Mexican narcos are still far from completely controlling Peru’s cocaine chain. The UN’s Mirella says most labs here are still operated by “local clans” in a decentralized system that limits the damage when law enforcement detects one.

This past week Peruvian newspaper La Republica reported that Brazilian gangsters were also running operations in the VRAE, the Spanish acronym for the Valley of the Apurimac and Ene Rivers, a lawless outpost on the lush slopes of the eastern Andes that now grows more coca than anywhere else on Earth.

Brazil is the world’s second largest cocaine market, after the US, with cheap crack and cocaine paste popular in the favelas (city slums), while more affluent Brazilians snort the refined powder in increasing quantities.

Citing a confidential police report, the paper named the leader of the gang as Osmar de Souza, a 27-year-old Brazilian with a long record of drug-running that includes escaping from jail in both Argentina and Paraguay. Officers were unavailable for comment to GlobalPost.

But despite Peruvian police setting a new national record for a cocaine seizure, some say law enforcement here still needs to up its game to confront the cartels.

Mirella praised the efforts to track and stop the large amounts of chemicals, such as kerosene and sulfuric acid, that are used to turn coca leaves into cocaine.

“Without them [the chemicals], you don’t have a finished product,” he said.

But he believes more could be done to stop money laundering.

“At the end of the day, it is the money laundering that is keeping this business alive.”

That, and the demand for cocaine in cities from Los Angeles to Paris and Tokyo.

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