Refining of illegal gold reveals money-laundering bonanza in S. Florida


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Narco-traffickers send gold to Miami and get cash back in money laundering operation

High-profile AML Compliance scrutiny tends to be reserved for banks, but in South Florida, the refining of precious metals—and especially gold—is proving to be a favorite of money launderers. A Miami Herald story earlier this year detailed how South American drug traffickers have laundered billions in profits through illegally mined gold smuggled into Miami for refining.

Federal authorities homed in on employees of NTR Metals, at least one of whom is accused of soliciting his services as a high-value money launderer for traffickers and other criminals.

Bloomberg described the Homeland Security complaint from March as outlining “a vast conspiracy involving employees at NTR Metals to buy huge amounts of gold from illegal mines in Peru that support human trafficking, forced labor and environmental devastation. The scheme allowed the NTR Metals office in Miami to launder billions of dollars for criminal organizations — including Peruvian narco-terrorists — by buying gold from mines they control.”

Gold imports from all over Central and South America—Peru, Ecuador, Chile, Bolivia, the Caribbean, and so on—have been flagged as suspicious. Various front companies have been implicated in the scheme to move the laundered money.

In March, Bloomberg Businessweek published an in-depth feature story titled “How to Become an International Gold Smuggler.” Reporters traced how a single 23-year-old Chilean male managed to smuggle tens of millions of dollars of gold to Miami for refining at NTR Metals. The report describes various Customs requirements and Compliance requirements, most of which were fraudulently prepared or else ignored.

Enforcing Compliance regulations and stopping the movement of illegally mined gold has taken on added importance as affected nations struggle to deal with the collateral damage of human trafficking, environmental degradation, and corruption inextricably bound to the smuggling operations.

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