Colombian National Army Dismantles Money Laundering Scheme Tied to Terrorism

By Dialogo
February 11, 2015




Colombian National Army Soldiers, in coordination with the Attorney General’s Office, recently detained 15 people in four departments who allegedly exported more than two billion pesos in illegally-mined gold as part of a scheme that authorities suspect funded terrorism and other criminal activities.

The operation was part of the government's Sword of Honor III campaign.

Troops and investigators with the Attorney General's Office acted on intelligence to make the arrests on January 15 in the departments of Antioquia, Caldas, La Guajira and Valle del Cauca. The suspects allegedly laundered profits from illegally mined gold through private company Goldex.

The suspects were arrested on charges of money laundering, document forgery, conspiracy to commit crimes, and direct commercial operations with people who don’t exist or have already died. Some of the suspects are Goldex executives and some are employees.

Authorities suspect connection to terrorism and organized crime


Colombian authorities believe the suspects are part of a criminal network that may have been funding terrorism. The suspects allegedly sold and purchased the illegally mined gold domestically, then exported it.

“We are not looking to investigate isolated cases of illegal mining, but we do want to know where criminal organizations are using illegal mining to commit other types of crimes,” Deputy Attorney General Jorge Fernando Perdomo Torres said after the arrests.

Investigations by Colombian law enforcement authorities have found connections between Goldex and the Clan Úsuga drug trafficking group.

The arrests were a blow against organized crime and terrorism.

“The country has long known that illegal mining and money laundering are used to fund criminal organizations," according to Mauricio Cárdenas Santamaría, Colombia's Minister of Finance and Public Credit. “This is why it is very important that in the same way we combat drug trafficking, we strike the first blows against this form of funding terrorism in our country”.

The case is the responsibility of Public Prosecutor Office 23, which specializes in anti-narcotics and money laundering offenses.

Fighting an alliance of criminals


Colombia's Military and Attorney General's Office are cooperating to break up the alliance between organized crime groups and terrorist organizations, such as the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), the National Liberation Army (ELN), and criminal gangs (Bacrim). These groups work together and engage in money laundering to fund their criminal enterprises.

“The country’s economic growth makes what was once artisan mining, a profitable economic activity. Illegal groups launder profits," from illegal mining, according to Rubén Sánchez, security analyst at the University of Rosario in Colombia.

Sánchez suspects a strong link between illegal mining, money-laundering operations, the FARC, and ELN. These terrorist groups engage in illegal enterprises to fund their violent operations.

“Extortion was a major source of funding for these armed groups. Now, they can’t depend on it," Sánchez said. "They are are looking for other profitable activities. Illegal mining and money laundering is ideal because it generates large profits with lower risks."

It is likely that organizations engaged in illegal mining and money laundering have formed international alliances to operate because in today’s global world, such networks are used to gain access to many markets. These groups take advantage of routes, contacts, and alliances.

"They have established a huge network of accomplices at all levels,” Sanchez said. And he is not alone in also saying the FARC uses funds from illegal mining to fund terrorist attacks.

In a July 2013 interview with WRadio.com.co,
General Leonardo Pinto, commander of the Colombian Military's Joint Task Force Nudo de Paramillo, said that the FARC used its own machinery to engage in illegal mining in protected national parks.

The success of Sword of Honor


To combat the FARC and ELN at all levels, the Colombian Armed Forces launched the Sword of Honor campaign in 2012. Under the initiative, Troops use intelligence to prevent terrorist attacks, confiscate illegal weapons, and persuade FARC and ELN members to demobilize.

The initiative was so successful that the Armed Forces subsequently launched Sword of Honor II and, in January, Sword of Honor III.

Environmental damage caused by illegal mining


In addition to providing financing for terrorist organizations, illegal mining also harms the Colombian environment.

On way illegal mining harms the environment is by discharging mercury into water sources.

For example, in recent years thousands of people in Puerto Libertador, San José de Uré, Ayapel and Montelíbano have consumed water contaminated with mercury introduced into the environment by illegal mining.



Colombian National Army Soldiers, in coordination with the Attorney General’s Office, recently detained 15 people in four departments who allegedly exported more than two billion pesos in illegally-mined gold as part of a scheme that authorities suspect funded terrorism and other criminal activities.

The operation was part of the government's Sword of Honor III campaign.

Troops and investigators with the Attorney General's Office acted on intelligence to make the arrests on January 15 in the departments of Antioquia, Caldas, La Guajira and Valle del Cauca. The suspects allegedly laundered profits from illegally mined gold through private company Goldex.

The suspects were arrested on charges of money laundering, document forgery, conspiracy to commit crimes, and direct commercial operations with people who don’t exist or have already died. Some of the suspects are Goldex executives and some are employees.

Authorities suspect connection to terrorism and organized crime


Colombian authorities believe the suspects are part of a criminal network that may have been funding terrorism. The suspects allegedly sold and purchased the illegally mined gold domestically, then exported it.

“We are not looking to investigate isolated cases of illegal mining, but we do want to know where criminal organizations are using illegal mining to commit other types of crimes,” Deputy Attorney General Jorge Fernando Perdomo Torres said after the arrests.

Investigations by Colombian law enforcement authorities have found connections between Goldex and the Clan Úsuga drug trafficking group.

The arrests were a blow against organized crime and terrorism.

“The country has long known that illegal mining and money laundering are used to fund criminal organizations," according to Mauricio Cárdenas Santamaría, Colombia's Minister of Finance and Public Credit. “This is why it is very important that in the same way we combat drug trafficking, we strike the first blows against this form of funding terrorism in our country”.

The case is the responsibility of Public Prosecutor Office 23, which specializes in anti-narcotics and money laundering offenses.

Fighting an alliance of criminals


Colombia's Military and Attorney General's Office are cooperating to break up the alliance between organized crime groups and terrorist organizations, such as the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), the National Liberation Army (ELN), and criminal gangs (Bacrim). These groups work together and engage in money laundering to fund their criminal enterprises.

“The country’s economic growth makes what was once artisan mining, a profitable economic activity. Illegal groups launder profits," from illegal mining, according to Rubén Sánchez, security analyst at the University of Rosario in Colombia.

Sánchez suspects a strong link between illegal mining, money-laundering operations, the FARC, and ELN. These terrorist groups engage in illegal enterprises to fund their violent operations.

“Extortion was a major source of funding for these armed groups. Now, they can’t depend on it," Sánchez said. "They are are looking for other profitable activities. Illegal mining and money laundering is ideal because it generates large profits with lower risks."

It is likely that organizations engaged in illegal mining and money laundering have formed international alliances to operate because in today’s global world, such networks are used to gain access to many markets. These groups take advantage of routes, contacts, and alliances.

"They have established a huge network of accomplices at all levels,” Sanchez said. And he is not alone in also saying the FARC uses funds from illegal mining to fund terrorist attacks.

In a July 2013 interview with WRadio.com.co,
General Leonardo Pinto, commander of the Colombian Military's Joint Task Force Nudo de Paramillo, said that the FARC used its own machinery to engage in illegal mining in protected national parks.

The success of Sword of Honor


To combat the FARC and ELN at all levels, the Colombian Armed Forces launched the Sword of Honor campaign in 2012. Under the initiative, Troops use intelligence to prevent terrorist attacks, confiscate illegal weapons, and persuade FARC and ELN members to demobilize.

The initiative was so successful that the Armed Forces subsequently launched Sword of Honor II and, in January, Sword of Honor III.

Environmental damage caused by illegal mining


In addition to providing financing for terrorist organizations, illegal mining also harms the Colombian environment.

On way illegal mining harms the environment is by discharging mercury into water sources.

For example, in recent years thousands of people in Puerto Libertador, San José de Uré, Ayapel and Montelíbano have consumed water contaminated with mercury introduced into the environment by illegal mining.
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