Colombian drug barons use Spain to launder money

LAST UPDATED: 5 Sep, 2007 @ 10:19
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CIA report claims Spain is safe haven for cocaine money

NOT only is Spain the gateway for cocaine into Europe but Colombia’s drug barons use the country to launder billions of euros gained from the sale of the drug.

Those are the findings of a US study into the dealings of the South American country’s most powerful drug cartels.

The report, jointly prepared by the US Government’s Treasury Department and security agency the CIA, claims that almost three billion euros of illicit drug money was seized by Spanish authorities in 2006 – almost double the annual budget of the country’s Ministry of Justice.

However, the authors of The Impact of the Economic Sanctions against the Colombian Drug Cartels claim Spain is the European entry point for cocaine. The country is then used to launder the proceeds from the continental sale of the drug.

The illicit money is used to set up a temporary business, such as a real estate company, a printers or a shop selling computer material.

When the authorities discover the links to drug money, these companies have been sold to unsuspecting buyers or placed in voluntary liquidation and the money moved on to Switzerland before being shipped to the US state of Miami or a Caribbean island, the report claims.


The report highlights the case of Orlando Sabogal, arrested and detained in Madrid last year. Known as El Socio, Sabogal is considered the right-hand man of Luis Hernando Gómez Bustamante – the chief of the Norte del Valle cartel, which moves 40 per cent of the cocaine consumed globally.

El Socio was in charge of collecting the money, which had been laundered through various fake companies.

However, police are unsure through which companies the cartel channelled their illicit gains.

“Tracing money that has already passed through various companies and even tax havens back to drugs is an impossible task,” a police spokesman said.

Recent reports suggest Spain is in the middle of a cocaine epidemic, with the country having the greatest percentage of users in the world.

According to a United Nations study, 3 per cent of Spaniards between 15 and 64 years of age admitted to having taken cocaine within the past year.

Last year, 50,000 kilograms of cocaine – with an estimated street value of two billion US dollars – was confiscated by Spanish authorities.

This figure, however, only represents 7 per cent of the total amount of cocaine in circulation throughout Spain.

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