Money launderer avoids Italian mob by U.S. guilty plea
Thursday, April 10, 2014 at 7:08AM
Richard L. Cassin and Julie DiMauro in DEA, DOJ, HSBC Holdings Plc, Hong Kong, Luis Alberto Marulanda-Cardona, U.S. Attorney's Office, money laundering

A Colombian national pleaded guilty to a money laundering conspiracy charge in federal court in Orlando, Florida on Monday, federal prosecutors said.

By pleading guilty, Luis Alberto Marulanda-Cardona, 54, avoided extradition to Italy to face charges there.

He was kidnapped by Italian mobsters who blamed him for a missing drug shipment. They cut off a pinky finger and stabbed him in the leg, according to court testimony.

In 2008, Marulanda had contacted an undercover informant working with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration who was posing as a private banker.

Marulanda asked for help laundering up to $15 million in drug proceeds from his operations in Italy. He asked the informant to meet him in Rome, where Marulanda gave the informant an initial €650,000 ($900,000) to be laundered.

Marulanda's plan was to move the money through New York City, Atlanta, Orlando and Panama City into Hong Kong banks. By the time the scheme ended in May 2011, Marulanda had tried to launder a total of $2.9 million.

Some of the money was wired to accounts at HSBC Holdings Plc (Hong Kong) controlled by Kingley Enterprises Ltd, Noble Spirit Development Co, Wylie Group Holdings Ltd and Glomarket Ltd. Some was also wired to Marulanda-Cardona's personal account at Bancolombia in Medellin, Colombia. The U.S. has obtained freezes on  those accounts.

Marulanda pleaded guilty to money-laundering conspiracy under the racketeering provisions of Title 18, US Code, Section 1956(h) and agreed to cooperate with prosecutors. In return, prosecutors agreed not to t return him to Italy, where he's wanted on related drug charges.

He faces up to 10 years in prison and will forfeit up to $2.9 million.

In December 2012, HSBC agreed to pay a record $1.92 billion in fines to U.S. authorities for allowing itself to be used to launder drug money flowing out of Mexico.

Earlier that year, a U.S. Senate investigation found a series of compliance lapses at the bank.

A copy of the DEA's April 7, 2014 release is here.

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Richard L. Cassin is the publisher and editor of the FCPA Blog. He can be contacted here.

Julie DiMauro is the executive editor of FCPA Blog and can be reached here.

Article originally appeared on The FCPA Blog (https://www.fcpablog.com/).
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