Authorities in the Dominican Republic reported arresting 26 people and seizing millions of dollars worth of assets linked to an international money laundering ring that moved millions of dollars between the Caribbean nation and Central and South America.
The operation also saw the seizure of 15 kilos of cocaine, 20 luxury vehicles, over $1 million in cash, and several homes and apartments, according to Santo Domingo newspaper Hoy. The total value of the seized assets is thought to be a over a billion Dominican pesos, or around $25 million.
In a press conference, national intelligence agency the DNI said the money laundering ring operated for nearly five years, and would move on average between $2.5 million to $12.5 million per month, amounting to over $70 million per year.
The organization would move cash back and forth between the Dominican Republic and Colombia, Venezuela, and Panama, using suitcases with false bottoms. Smugglers would wrap the cash in carbon paper to prevent detection from airport x-ray machines. The smugglers also reportedly used tourist visas in order to travel.
InSight Crime Analysis
The break-up of the money laundering ring follows the recent dismantling of a drug trafficking operation that moved cocaine between Colombia and the Dominican Republic. Such incidents call attention to the country's increased status as a hub for the international drug trade.
And as newspaper El Nacional points out in an editorial, the successful money laundering bust was apparently carried out without any assistance from the anti-narcotics agency, the DNCD (although the DNCD later said that they were aware of the investigation for five months prior to the arrests). Neither did the operation involve the police, airport personnel, or the agency in charge of port security, known as the CESEP. As the newspaper points out, this raises questions about whether these agencies were complicit in allowing such a massive money laundering operation apparently operate unhindered for years.
The Dominican Republic has struggled to purge its security forces of corrupt elements, dismissing over 500 military and police personnel with ties to the drug trade since 2007.