The United States Treasury Department has placed 31 individuals and entities on its “Kingpin List” for participation in a Colombia-based money laundering network with connections to Israel and bank accounts in China, illustrating the highly globalized nature of Latin American financial crime.
Colombian national Isaac Perez Guberek Ravinovicz and his son Henry Guberek Grimberg, a dual Israeli and Colombian national, were placed on the US Specially Designated Narcotics Traffickers (SDNT) list — or “Kingpin List” — for allegedly leading a Bogota-based network responsible for laundering hundreds of millions of dollars for numerous drug trafficking organizations. Four of the men’s family members — one of whom lives in Israel — and three Colombian business associates were also blacklisted for aiding the operation.
According to the US Treasury, the father and son used legitimate textile companies based out of Colombia, in addition to various shell companies in Panama and one in Israel, to engage in money laundering, with drug traffickers transferring funds from all over the world into the bank accounts of these front businesses. In addition to Colombia, the network held bank accounts in China, Hong Kong, Israel, Spain, the United States, Mexico, Venezuela and the Cayman Islands.
The US Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida also announced the separate filing of charges against four Colombians in relation to the same case, including the two Gubereks, their secretary — also on the Treasury list — and a man who was linked in 2012 to an illegal money transport network operating in Panama.
The sheer number of countries in which the network had bank accounts, in addition to the group’s international business connections, highlights the extent to which financial crime has become a transnational business. Other recent Colombian cases have shown similar tendencies. A 2011 law enforcement operation uncovered a 22-person international network that laundered money for the Medellin-based Oficina de Envigado, and in 2013, US authorities dismantled a Colombian money laundering network with US and Dominican members.
The use of Panama also remains a mainstay in this side of the business. The country has previously hosted another operation to make it on the SDNT list, which had links to Colombia and Hong Kong.
The global nature of the money laundering problem was recently recognized by the G8 countries, which agreed to require greater financial transparency from companies, in particular the sort of shell companies allegedly used by the Gubereks.