On March 4, 2022, the U.S. and the Colombian governments signed a memorandum of understanding to strengthen the investigation and prosecution of money laundering and related crimes, the Colombian Office of the Attorney General said. The initiative targets transnational organized crime and narcotrafficking groups that carry out criminal activities from Colombia.
In addition, this will facilitate joint investigative efforts to unravel money laundering schemes, increase asset forfeiture actions, and create an elite group to prosecute and punish money laundering.
“This project is the most ambitious on money laundering issues in the history of bilateral collaboration,” U.S. Ambassador to Colombia Philip S. Goldberg said during the signing of the agreement. “With this project, we intend to create a training curriculum and form a permanent team to investigate and prosecute money laundering, as well as the expiration of ownership rights,” he added.
Colombian Attorney General Francisco Barbosa Delgado said that the United States “is our strategic partner; we work hand in hand as one of the pillars of common principles, which we share on this continent.”
The crimes that lead to money laundering and financing of terrorism in Colombia are narcotrafficking, smuggling, corruption, illegal mining, and extortion, the Colombian Ministry of Justice said on its website. In 2021, money laundering in the country totaled $2 billion, the Office of the Attorney General indicated.
According to the U.S. Department of State’s 2022 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report, illegal gold mining and trade are a source and means of laundering assets in Colombia. Criminal groups are also increasingly using digital currencies to send narcotrafficking profits to Colombia, the report adds.
In the last two years, Colombia prosecuted money laundering and other related crimes involving about $3 billion. In addition, the country imposed precautionary measures for extradition purposes, on ownership of goods, shares, and financial products, totaling about $6 billion, the Colombian Office of the Attorney General said.
In the same period, the Office of the Attorney General signed 347 extradition warrants and handed over 301 of these criminals to appear before U.S. courts.
In January 2022, Colombian authorities arrested a couple transporting nearly $260,000 in Nariño department. According to the investigation, the defendants were members of the National Liberation Army, and the money was to be used to finance illicit activities, the Office of the Attorney General said.
To provide a comprehensive response to the fight against money laundering in Colombia, the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs implemented two projects with an estimated budget of $8 million, Ambassador Goldberg said.
“We trust that by working together we can continue building and strengthening the policy of the fight against narcotrafficking and terrorism financing, in order to provide greater security to our two countries,” Ambassador Goldberg concluded.