Merchandise seizure underlines importance of TBML to drug traffickers

The importance of trade-based money laundering (TBML) for Latin American drug trafficking groups has been underlined by substantial amounts of merchandise seized during Colombia’s largest ever anti-contraband operation.

A massive TBML scheme is now allegedly linked to the Sinaloa Cartel according to investigators with the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement in the port of Los Angeles, who suspect export companies of laundering the Mexican cartel’s drugs proceeds.

Asset seizure

After a two-year investigation, the largest asset seizure in Colombia’s history included 20 buildings, 20 companies and 11 stores at an estimated total value of around US$87 million.

Another US$1.6 million worth of contraband merchandise was also impounded.

Contraband typology

The network used a so-called 60/40 contraband typology in which the operators of the TBML scheme mixed legal and illegal merchandise together, with illicit products making up 40 per cent of the cargo.

Sinaloa allegedly used drug profits from the US to buy Chinese merchandise that was imported into Colombia. The profit from the sales of that merchandise served to pay Colombian criminal groups for the cocaine they supplied to their Mexican counterpart.

The networks working this scheme allegedly brought Chinese nationals to Latin America to use as front men for the TBML operation.

Categories: Trade Based Financial crimes News

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