HomeNewsBrief$4.2 Bn Laundered in Costa Rica Every Year: Official
BRIEF

$4.2 Bn Laundered in Costa Rica Every Year: Official

COSTA RICA / 14 MAY 2015 BY LOREN RIESENFELD EN

Over $4 billion is laundered in Costa Rica every year, according to a government official, where a high degree of financial openness combined with the country’s growing role in the regional drug trade has created conditions ripe for money laundering.

Mariano Figueras, the head of Costa Rica’s intelligence agency, known as the DIS for its Spanish acronym, said that $4.2 billion is laundered in Costa Rica every year, reported Diario Extra. The crime is so prolific, Figueras said, that “everyone in Costa Rica sees money laundering every day and in different forms.”

Much of the money laundering in Costa Rica is channeled through the country’s nascent construction industry — when criminal organizations want to bring money into the legitimate financial system they tend to buy real estate or invest in construction, according to Diario Extra. Financial institutions, casinos, and currency exchange houses are also used to wash illicitly obtained income.

Figueras also noted the role of Costa Rica as a transshipment point in the regional drug trade — the fact that the country lies squarely in the middle of drug routes moving from South America to the United States and money flowing back down, represents a “threat” to the Costa Rican economy.  The amount of illegal money swirling around is a threat compared to the relatively small size of the national economy.

InSight Crime Analysis

Figueras has finally put a number to what has long been a concern in Costa Rica. Like its southern neighbor Panama, which has the well-deserved reputation as Latin America’s money laundering hub, Costa Rica has a relatively open financial system, plenty of cash floating around the tourist sector, and profits from the growing drug trade that traffickers try to legitimize. Money laundering in Costa Rica is mostly connected to criminal organizations and the drug trade, which InSight Crime found in a 2011 investigation, as well as arms and human trafficking activities.

In one notable case in 2013, US law enforcement shut down a Costa Rica-based online currency exchange called Liberty Reserve, which prosecutors said was the “bank of choice for the criminal underworld.” A $6 billion business, Liberty Reserve was one of the largest online money laundering operations in history. The owner was able to establish the business in Costa Rica by marrying a Costa Rican citizen, but the exchange likely remained operational due to the country’s lax regulations for online businesses.

SEE ALSO: Coverage of Costa Rica

Costa Rica has since tried to improve its anti-money laundering (AML) regulations, submitting to an audit from the Financial Action Task Force for Latin America (GAFILAT) in January, according to the Tico Times

In its 2015 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (pdf), the US State Department noted Costa Rica has enacted all but two of the 21 recommended regulations designed to combat money laundering. Panama only lacked three of those regulations, but both remain on the State Department’s list of countries of “primary concern” for money laundering. 

Compartir icon icon icon

What are your thoughts? Click here to send InSight Crime your comments.

We encourage readers to copy and distribute our work for non-commercial purposes, with attribution to InSight Crime in the byline and links to the original at both the top and bottom of the article. Check the Creative Commons website for more details of how to share our work, and please send us an email if you use an article.

Related Content

ELITES AND CRIME / 13 MAR 2018

Venezuela is planning to launch a new digital currency called the "petro," which officials in the South American country have…

COLOMBIA / 26 OCT 2017

Merchandise seized during Colombia's largest-ever anti-contraband operation was allegedly linked to the Sinaloa Cartel, an apparent illustration of the importance…

BRAZIL / 9 AUG 2017

On December 21, 2016, the US Department of Justice and Brazilian construction conglomerate Odebrecht reached a record-setting anti-corruption settlement that…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

We Have Updated Our Website

4 FEB 2021

Welcome to our new home page. We have revamped the site to create a better display and reader experience.

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Events – Border Crime: The Northern Triangle and Tri-Border Area

ARGENTINA / 25 JAN 2021

Through several rounds of extensive field investigations, our researchers have analyzed and mapped out the main illicit economies and criminal groups present in 39 border departments spread across the six countries of study – the Northern Triangle trio of Guatemala, Honduras, and El…

BRIEF

InSight Crime’s ‘Memo Fantasma’ Investigation Wins Simón Bolívar National Journalism Prize

COLOMBIA / 20 NOV 2020

The staff at InSight Crime was awarded the prestigious Simón Bolívar national journalism prize in Colombia for its two-year investigation into the drug trafficker known as “Memo Fantasma,” which was…

ANALYSIS

InSight Crime – From Uncovering Organized Crime to Finding What Works

COLOMBIA / 12 NOV 2020

This project began 10 years ago as an effort to address a problem: the lack of daily coverage, investigative stories and analysis of organized crime in the Americas. …

ANALYSIS

InSight Crime – Ten Years of Investigating Organized Crime in the Americas

FEATURED / 2 NOV 2020

In early 2009, Steven Dudley was in Medellín, Colombia. His assignment: speak to a jailed paramilitary leader in the Itagui prison, just south of the city. Following his interview inside…