US authorities “bungled” prosecution of Waked’s TBML operations for drug cartels

The US authorities have been criticised in an article published by InsightCrime for their “bungled” and apparently lenient approach to the massive trade-based money laundering (TBML) operations of Nidal Waked.

A prominent Panamanian businessman, Waked worked alongside several relatives supporting the financial operations of major Mexican and Colombian drug cartels by providing TBML as a service (Trade-based Financial Crime, 9 May 2016 and 10 February 2017).

Although Waked was extradited from Colombia to the US where he was charged with several offences, he eventually pleaded guilty to just minor offences and has now been released from jail, raising questions about why one of the world’s most prolific money launderers for major drug cartels has apparently been treated so leniently.

Massive TBML scheme

The US treasury department claimed in 2015 that Waked and his uncle Abdul Waked directed a string of money laundering operations.

A network of 68 companies used TBML techniques, including false commercial invoicing, bulk cash smuggling and other money laundering methods to launder drug proceeds on behalf of multiple international drug traffickers and their organisations according to the department.

Plea bargain

But legal proceedings in the US led only to an October 2017 plea bargain with Nidal Waked admitting using falsified invoices in order to move funds of between US$22,000 and US$550,000 from a bank in Panama and to another in Miami between 2000 and 2009.

He also admitted to fraudulently securing bank credit to buy electronic appliances that did not actually exist. 

For these admissions prosecutors agreed to drop the other money laundering conspiracy and bank fraud charges, as well as the case against his companies that were also co-defendants in the case.

Further examination of the US authorities’ approach to the Nidal Waked case can be found in an analysis by Parker Asmann, All Bark, No Bite: How US Bungled Case of ‘Major’ Money Launderer, can be found here.

Categories: Trade Based Financial crimes News

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