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

FEATURED / 15 MAR 2022

The $215,520 began its journey south in the parking lot of a Meijer grocery store in Louisville, Kentucky, a 19-hour…

ELITES AND CRIME / 11 FEB 2021

Mexico's tax authority has dismissed Ramón García Gibson, one of its highest-ranking officials, for “evident conflicts of interest” and his…

COCAINE / 3 FEB 2022

Central American countries seized a record amount of drugs last year, underscoring how the region has become one of the…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

Escaping Barrio 18

27 JAN 2023

Last week, InSight Crime published an investigation charting the story of Desafío, a 28-year-old Barrio 18 gang member who is desperate to escape gang life. But there’s one problem: he’s…

THE ORGANIZATION

Europe Coverage Makes a Splash

20 JAN 2023

Last week, InSight Crime published an analysis of the role of Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport as an arrival hub for cocaine and methamphetamine from Mexico.  The article was picked up by…

THE ORGANIZATION

World Looks to InSight Crime for Mexico Expertise

13 JAN 2023

Our coverage of the arrest of Chapitos’ co-founder Ovidio Guzmán López in Mexico has received worldwide attention.In the UK, outlets including The Independent and BBC…

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Shares Expertise with US State Department

16 DEC 2022

Last week, InSight Crime Co-founder Steven Dudley took part in the International Anti-Corruption Conference organized by the US State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, & Labor and…

THE ORGANIZATION

Immediate Response to US-Mexico Marijuana Investigation

9 DEC 2022

InSight Crime’s investigation into how the legalization of marijuana in many US states has changed Mexico’s criminal dynamics made a splash this week appearing on the front page of…