13 Colombians Detained as Members of Money-Laundering Network Whose Boss Surrendered to the U.S.
By Dialogo June 22, 2009Bogotá, 18 June (EFE). - Today Colombian anti-narcotics police arrested thirteen alleged members of a money-laundering network led by Fabio Ochoa Vasco, a cocaine trafficker who surrendered to U.S. law-enforcement authorities in January. At least 200 million dollars were laundered by this organization, according to the Anti-Narcotics Office of the National Police, which conducted the roundup in coordination with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) and the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Asset Control (OFAC). The network controlled accounts in banking institutions located in the United States, Panama, Mexico, the Virgin Islands, Ecuador, and several European countries, the anti-narcotics police indicated in a report issued in Bogotá. The report explained that these money launderers carried out their operations by means of legally-established businesses supposedly dedicated to construction, carpet sales, property management, accounting, and legal consulting, among other fields. The anti-narcotics police added that these firms are part in a group of fifty properties owned by the same network, which will be confiscated by the state, and assess the value of this property at around 30 million dollars. The operation was carried out in the departments of Antioquia (northwest), Cundinamarca (center), and Valle del Cauca (southwest), the capitals of which are Medellín, Bogotá, and Cali. The press release did not identify those arrested, but it indicated that they include “lawyers, statutory auditors, business executives, and accountants.” Ochoa Vasco, nicknamed "Carlos Mario" or "the man of the cartel," turned himself in to the United States almost five months ago after three years of negotiating his surrender to U.S. law-enforcement authorities, who offered a five-million-dollar reward for information leading to his capture. The Colombian drug trafficker conducted the negotiations from Mexico, where he was living in hiding. The Colombian authorities said that Ochoa Vasco, who was allied to the Mexican Juárez cartel, was the subject of an extradition request by a court in Tampa, in the U.S. state of Florida. With a twenty-year history of drug trafficking, this criminal boss had his center of operations in Medellín and, according to the anti-narcotics police, shipped six to eight tons of cocaine a month to the United States.