Colombia has detected $20 billion likely tied to money laundering -official

BOGOTA (Reuters) - Colombia's financial crimes unit, intensifying efforts to catch fraud, has detected some $20 billion in financial operations potentially tied to money laundering over the last 3-1/2 years, the unit's director said.

The figure is equivalent to more than 6% of Colombia's annual gross domestic product.

Money laundering occurs when funds earned from illegal activities like drug trafficking are invested in front businesses which integrate illicit money into the legitimate financial system.

The funds were detected through more than 20,000 suspicious activity reports flagged each year by the Financial Information and Analysis Unit (UIAF).

"In the last few years we've hit the accelerator and the learning curve in terms of interception of illicit funds," UIAF director Javier Gutierrez told Reuters.

The $20 billion was detected between 2019 and mid-2022, he said.

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime estimates that 2% to 5% of the world's GDP - between $800 billion and $2 trillion - is laundered annually, though by its nature money laundering is hard to trace.

Laundering can cause inflation and create unfair competition when front businesses offer products and services at artificially low prices.

The UIAf has found some 570 channels through which money is laundered - including fake or inflated invoices, currency trading, exports and crypto-currencies, Gutierrez said.

Colombia's penal code outlines 66 types of crimes tied to money laundering including drugs and arms trafficking, customs fraud and people smuggling.

The Andean country is a top producer of cocaine and home to rebel groups and crime gangs involved in drug trafficking, illegal mining and other crimes.

"In importance drug trafficking is the one that generates the most resources and corruption is second for the harm it does to public investment and social programs," said Gutierrez.

Fighting money laundering is potentially more effective for combating crime than arrests, Gutierrez said.

"Being detected matters very little to criminals, it matters much more to be captured, but what hurts them most is the chance resources will be taken away," said Gutierrez. "If you bankrupt them economically it is much harder for them to be resilient."

(Reporting by Nelson Bocanegra; Writing by Julia Symmes Cobb; Editing by David Gregorio)

Article type: free
User access status:
Subscribe now to our Premium Plan for an ad-free and unlimited reading experience!

Next In World

Thousands of Czechs protest government's handling of energy crisis
Exclusive-Vietnam preparing rules to limit news posts on social media accounts - sources
Storm Ian strengthens to Category 4 hurricane as millions urged to evacuate Florida Gulf Coast
Cuba slowly begins to restore power after Hurricane Ian knocks out grid
Wider Image: In Mexico, more loved ones go missing. Their families keep searching
Kremlin says military campaign in Ukraine to continue at least until capture of all of Donetsk region
At least 22 killed after two Ugandan army helicopters crash in east Congo
'I have to keep fighting': Mexicans wait for years behind bars for a trial
Pope to visit Bahrain for conference in November, Vatican says
Russian-installed officials ask Putin to annex Ukrainian regions

Others Also Read