Authorities in Argentina have conducted multiple raids against a group suspected of laundering massive proceeds earned from trafficking cocaine to Europe; a sophisticated, large-scale, coordinated operation against transnational drug traffickers that has been relatively rare in the country.
On March 17, Argentine authorities conducted 39 simultaneous raids throughout the country, involving suspected members of a drug ring accused of large-scale money laundering, reported Infobae. Seven people were detained, including two lawyers.
According to La Nacion, the group had originally been discovered in 2012, when 1,051 kilos of cocaine hidden in shipments of charcoal were seized in Portugal and the port of Buenos Aires -- what is now known as the “White Charcoal” incident. Those implicated are still awaiting trial under house arrest.
Group members had allegedly used over 60 businesses to launder millions in drug proceeds, investing in large real-estate projects (both within Argentina and abroad), as well as in soccer players.
A source close to the investigation told La Nacion it was believed the group had been “in the contraband business since 2002 or 2003."
One raid was conducted in Parque Patricios -- home of the Club Huracan soccer team -- where documentation regarding the alleged links of drug money with the transfer of a soccer player was confiscated.
InSight Crime Analysis
This sort of sweeping operation, involving the coordination of over 250 security officials conducting 39 simultaneous raids in multiple, disperse locations -- and following months of investigation -- is something of a new phenomenon in Argentina.
SEE ALSO: Coverage of Argentina
Yet another multi-site raid was carried out the same day as this one, this time targeting a domestic drug ring in the Buenos Aires area that produced synthetic drugs.
That two such raids were conducted the same day may be a promising sign that Argentinian judicial and law enforcement agencies -- which have demonstrated shortcomings in the past and recently came under criticism from a federal judge -- are trying to improve their image and effectiveness.
Nonetheless, the apparent scale of the money laundering being carried out by the “White Charcoal” group is a side effect of Argentina’s growing importance to the drug trade; and is something the country has struggled to combat.
SEE ALSO: Coverage of Soccer Crime
If funds linked to the "White Charcoal" crime ring were indeed laundered by buying or selling soccer players, this would not be without precedent in Argentina, as soccer and organized crime have routinely intertwined in Latin America.