Colombia's Norte del Valle drug cartel has been laundering money through a network in Ecuador, according to the Ecuadorian authorities.
This was discovered through the Spanish Police's operation “Espejo” (Mirror), which has been in progress for the past two years, reported Ecuadorian newspaper El Comercio.
The Norte del Valle Cartel is generally considered defunct. Those involved in the laundering ring could be former Valle operatives acting independently, or perhaps members of the Rastrojos, a gang which started as an armed force for one faction of Norte del Valle, before taking over much of the group's old territory.
According to the report, money from drug sales in Europe was sent to Ecuador through remittances and internet transfers to front companies. It was then distributed among in different bank accounts to be withdrawn in quantities below $30 by various individuals, who would physically take the cash to Colombia and deliver it to cartel members.
The Ecuadorian Money Laundering Unit said that between 2007 and 2010, the organization transferred about $4.5 million through the Internet and sent 2.1 million euros disguised as remittances in 2010.
The investigations was carried out in six municipalities of Ecuador, and has found four front companies and 470 people involved in the operations in that country. There is an arrest warrant for all suspects, but most have not been found, an officer told El Comercio.