The World Customs Organisation (WCO), Egmont Group of Financial Intelligence Units (FIUs) and Interpol have successfully concluded their first anti-money laundering and counter financing terrorism financing (AML/CTF) joint investigation in the Western Hemisphere.
Operation Tentacle-Latin America revealed extensive illicit movements of gold, silver, diamonds and gemstones across borders by organised crime groups to launder the proceeds of their activities and resulted in combined seizures totalling nearly US$3 million.
The investigations revealed instances of trade-based financial crime and involved analysis of data from foreign trade operations.
Over- and under-invoicing
In one investigation involving over-invoicing, Chilean customs intercepted a shipment from Brazil of rough and polished semi-precious stones described as shungite. Investigators grew suspicious because shungite is only found in Russia while black jasper is abundant in Brazil. Spectroscopic analysis revealed the shipment consisted entirely of black jasper.
In another instance involving under-invoicing, Chilean customs found a shipment described on the documents as silver jewellery was in fact gold jewellery.
Participants in this pan-Latin American operation included customs services, FIUs and police services in nine different Latin American countries, including the customs services of Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador and Panama, as well as the US’ Homeland Security Investigations and Customs and Border Protection, Italy’s Customs Service and Guardia di Finanza, and Spain’s Guardia Civil.
“We are working in coordination with national and international organisations, to analyse thousands of data from foreign trade operations to be able to identify potential cases of smuggling, evasion and other crimes,” according to administrative deputy director of Chilean customs, Gustavo Poblete.
Launched in 2019, US-funded Project Tentacle aims to build the capacities of frontline customs and police officers as well as FIU analysts through both workshops and operational training, covering five world regions: Asia-Pacific, Latin America, Eastern Europe, Middle East and Africa.
More details on Operation Tentacle-Latin America can be found here.
Categories: Trade Based Financial crimes News