Illegal armed groups in Colombia make approximately $14 billion a year in drug trafficking and illegal mining activities, said the country’s top financial intelligence official Tuesday.
According to Luis Edmundo Suarez, director of the financial crimes unit FIAU money, Colombia’s drug trafficking groups launder some $10 billion annually, a figure corresponding to about 3% of the country’s Gross Domestic Product.
“These resources enter the Colombian economy and are washed in the same economy or through international mechanisms used by criminals for money laundering purposes,” said Suarez.
The official explained that illegal money enters the economy by two channels: through financial schemes or traditional cash-driven companiess.
The first is “the channel that the authorities have traditionally clamped down on with greater strength. All the strict measures taken within the financial sector meant that criminals have moved their money-washing practices into the real sector of the economy,” explained Suarez.
A traditional technique used by drug-traffickers to divert attention of the authorities is the so-called “smurfing”. In this context, smurfing (or structuring) is the process of splitting large transactions into many small transactions to avoid detection. With the use of companies, drug-traffickers launder money into the real economy through providers or informal credits, and buying and selling of raw materials at low cost.
However, smuggling remains the most recurrent form of laundering the money into the real sector of the economy.
Additionally, Suarez declared that the FIAU in the past four years managed to recover almost $2 billion through investigations and measures applied to known money-laundering processes.
The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime had announced earlier this month that in the last 5 years, Colombia has initiated over 500 judicial processes for money-laundering.
“Colombia is the country that does the most against money-laundering in Latin America” said Bo Mathiasen, a representative of the UN agency.