U.S. authorities have charged three Colombian nationals in connection with a large scale money laundering operation connected to drug trafficking. The three were charged for their involvement in the laundering of billions of drug proceeds.
The news comes as authorities are urging banks to have stricter controls to ensure dirty money is not deposited in their accounts, benefitting criminals and compromising the safety of the American people.
The three Colombians accused were charged with coordinating the running of a multi billion dollar money laundering network that cleaned billions in drug money through bank accounts in Hong Kong and China.
The Guangzhou, China, organization brought in a minimum of $5 billion of drug money into the U.S., Colombia, Mexico, Panama, Canada and Guatemala. Also included in the transfers were parts of Africa and Europe.
One of the three accused, Henry Poveda, appeared before a Brooklyn federal court on Thursday. The other two accused, John Jairo Hincapie-Ramirez and Christian Duque-Aristizabal, are both in custody in the state of Panama, awaiting extradition proceedings.
The three are facing a single charge of conspiracy to launder money.
The indictment reports that the three used Chinese casinos, export companies, currency exchanges and factories to receive billions in drug money. The money then travelled through accounts in Hong Kong and China before ultimately being used to buy goods in the western hemisphere.
Poveda’s lawyer, Mia Eisner-Grynberg, appointed by the court, declined to issue a statement on the case.
A fourth defendant in the case, Yuing Luo from Hong Kong, already pleaded guilty to conspiring to money launder in April. Arrested in September 2014 at Newark Liberty International Airport, New Jersey, Luo could face up to 20 years in jail for her crime.
Authorities have increasingly been urging banks to tighten their controls and ensure no laundered money passes through their ranks. In 2012, HSBC holdings was compelled to pay $1.9 billion to resolve accusations it allowed money laundering in Colombia and Mexico.
Money laundering activity contaminates bank records with illicit activity and cleans dirty money from illegal source. Through banks upgrading their detection and reaction systems, they will be able to stop further laundering activities.