HomeNewsBriefTreasury Dept Operation Spotlights Panama's Money Laundering Role
BRIEF

Treasury Dept Operation Spotlights Panama's Money Laundering Role

MONEY LAUNDERING / 15 MAY 2014 BY SETH ROBBINS EN

New details have emerged about an international money laundering ring stretching between Colombia, Panama and Mexico, with the US government's attack against the network highlighting Panama's crucial role in legitimizing illicit finances.

Eight people and 20 companies connected to Jorge Fadlallah Cheaitelly, an Iranian-Colombian man, were targeted by the Treasury Department under the Kingpin Act and placed under sanctions, according to a news release. Cheaitelly -- who was arrested in Costa Rica in 2011 and extradited to the US in 2012 -- has been accused of leading the money laundering organization that included family members and was run out of the Central American nation.

Through the new sanctions, the Treasury Department will attempt to freeze assets of all individuals and companies allegedly involved in Cheaitelly’s laundering operation, and impose penalties on anyone continuing to do business with them.

Among those designated in the latest round of sanctions were Cheaitelly's father, Ignacio Plata Rivera, and other relatives, prominent Panamanian lawyer Jorge Plata McNulty, and several associates who allegedly laundered drug money through companies in Panama (click on Treasury Department organogram to expand).

SEE ALSO: Coverage of Money Laundering

The Treasury Department also targeted the assets of 20 companies belonging to Cheaitelly and his associates, including import-export businesses, a non-profit foundation, restaurants and other shell companies located in Panama, Colombia and Mexico.

panamring

InSight Crime Analysis

When the Treasury Department first went after Cheaitelly’s money-laundering operations more than two years ago, it was discovered that his vast operation stretched across South America, Central America, Africa and the Middle East. One of his shell companies was linked to Lebanese drug trafficker Ayman Joumaa, who is alleged to have moved cocaine and laundered money for various Colombian and Mexican cartels, and is known to have financed Lebanon-based militant group Hezbollah.

While Cheaitelly’s associates appear to not have the same international connections, the sanctions against them are further proof of how Panama remains a strategic location for money launderers, due to its status as a regional financial hub with lax investment laws and a dollarized economy.

They also highlight how difficult it is to untangle the webs created by professional money launderers such as Cheaitelly, who himself was first placed under sanctions in 2011. Just last February, the Colombian drug trafficker alleged to have run Cheaitelly’s narcotics trafficking organization was also designated under the Kingpin Act. 

share icon icon icon

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

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.

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

Related Content

COCAINE / 19 JAN 2018

Major cocaine seizures in Spain, Portugal and Ecuador illustrate the European cocaine pipeline that has become a central part of…

MONEY LAUNDERING / 7 MAY 2014

Panama's vice-president has been elected to the country's top office, but amid the congratulations accusations of laundered money funding his…

MONEY LAUNDERING / 20 JUN 2013

The G8 summit has concluded with a statement promising a coordinated international effort to crack down on money laundering, although…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

Venezuela's Cocaine Revolution Met With Uproar

6 MAY 2022

On May 4, InSight Crime launched its latest investigation, Venezuela’s Cocaine Revolution¸ accompanied by a virtual panel on its findings. The takeaways from this three-year effort, including the fact that Venezuela…

THE ORGANIZATION

Venezuela Drug Trafficking Investigation and InDepth Gender Coverage

29 APR 2022

On May 4, InSight Crime will be publishing The Cocaine Revolution in Venezuela, a groundbreaking investigation into how the Venezuelan government regulates the cocaine trade in the country. An accompanying event,…

THE ORGANIZATION

InDepth Coverage of Juan Orlando Hernández

22 APR 2022

Ever since Juan Orlando Hernández was elected president of Honduras in 2014, InSight Crime has provided coverage of every twist and turn during his rollercoaster time in office, amid growing…

THE ORGANIZATION

Venezuela's Cocaine Revolution

15 APR 2022

On May 4th, InSight Crime will publish a groundbreaking investigation on drug trafficking in Venezuela. A product of three years of field research across the country, the study uncovers cocaine production in…

LA ORGANIZACIÓN

Widespread Coverage of InSight Crime MS13 Investigation

8 APR 2022

In a joint investigation with La Prensa Gráfica, InSight Crime recently revealed that four of the MS13’s foremost leaders had been quietly released from…