Authorities in Argentina have frozen $100 million in assets belonging to a major property developer, in a money laundering case linked to Colombian drug lords that highlights the country's role in the financial side of the transnational drug trade.
The investigation by the Financial Information Unit (UIF) and the Federal Administration of Public Revenue (AFIP) -- which began in 2011 -- is looking into 20 property trusts and the investment of over $200 million into urban developments in the luxury gated community of Nordelta in north Argentina. Of the 250 investors being investigated in the case, 70 percent failed to prove the origins of their money, reported Pagina/12.
The investigation is focused on the director of property developer Oda Constructora, architect Walter Mosca, who is suspected of using his business to launder drug money for the relatives of alleged traffickers with operations in the area, including Colombian nationals Jesus Antonio Yepes Gaviria and Ignacio Alvarez Meyendorff.
Meyendorff is believed to have been a member of Colombia's defunct Norte del Valle Cartel, and was arrested in Buenos Aires in April 2011 and accused of being the top financial chief of a drug trafficking network that included the now incarcerated Colombian drug lords Luis Agustin Caicedo Velandia, alias "Don Lucho," and Daniel "El Loco" Barrera. The former wife of Barrera, Ruth Martinez is also implicated in the case and was detained in Argentina in 2012 on charges of laundering money through a real estate company she had set up.
In June, Colombian authorities seized hundreds of millions of dollars of assets linked to Alvarez Meyendorff and his brother.
InSight Crime Analysis
Argentina has long been a popular hideout and meeting place for Colombian drug traffickers, not only for the network run by Meyendorff and Don Lucho, but also for traffickers linked to Medellin's Oficina de Envigado and Colombia's premier criminal operation, the Urabeños -- whose leading cocaine broker Henry de Jesus Lopez, alias "Mi Sangre," was arrested in the country in 2012.
SEE ALSO: Coverage of Money Laundering
It is little surprise such traffickers would also use the country to set up money laundering operations, not only for convenience, but also because the country's boom and bust economy has created ideal conditions for financial crimes, according to the US State Department; there is a widespread use of cash, blackmarket currency transfers, a history of capital flight, and the practice of holding savings in US dollars is common.
Money laundering and financial crime scandals in the country have not only involved Colombian traffickers but also major financial institutions, soccer clubs and even close allies of current President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner and her husband and predecessor Nestor Kirchner.