2012-06-14

Nicaragua Creates a Unit to Investigate Money Laundering

The new Nicaraguan entity will be able to use information provided by casinos, currency exchange and gaming businesses, among others, in addition to accessing confidential information from the people it investigates. (Photo: AFP/Rodrigo Buendía)

The new Nicaraguan entity will be able to use information provided by casinos, currency exchange and gaming businesses, among others, in addition to accessing confidential information from the people it investigates. (Photo: AFP/Rodrigo Buendía)

AFP

On June 12, the Nicaraguan Congress approved the Financial Analysis Unit (UAF), an entity with the power to investigate, at its discretion, individuals or firms suspected of money laundering or links to drug trafficking, an official source announced.

The law seeks to prevent the “laundering of money, property, and assets originating in illicit activities and the financing of terrorism” in Nicaragua, according to the text passed by 63 of the 91 legislators, the president of Congress, René Núñez, announced.

The UAF will serve as a decentralized government agency, under the leadership of a director and a deputy director, who will, however, be named by President Daniel Ortega.

The entity will be able to investigate individuals and public and private institutions “that may be linked to money laundering,” report its suspicions to the authorities, and exchange information with authorities outside the country.

It will also be able to demand information from the Office of the Superintendent of Banks, microfinance firms, currency exchanges, pawn shops, lenders, money-transfer businesses, casinos, and gaming businesses, and from the police themselves, as well as having access to confidential documents of the individuals it may investigate.

According to the law, the officials who exchange information with the UAF must maintain “complete confidentiality about the reports” and investigations.

Businesspeople and opposition politicians fear that the administration might use the UAF to investigate the finances of individuals and firms opposed to its ideals.

“They can declare the civil death of any businessperson or citizen” who does not support the administration, opposition member of Congress Eliseo Núñez warned.

The chair of the Private Enterprise Senior Council, José Aguerri, announced that he will go to court to seek to have the law creating the UAF, which he considered a “terrible signal” for the country, ruled unconstitutional.

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