Dominican Republic was traffickers’drugs-dollars revolving door - The group of Colombians, Venezuelans and Dominicans arrested by National Investigations Department (DNI) agents smuggled large amounts of money with double bottom suitcases through airports, to pay South American traffickers for the drugs sent to Dominican Republic, says the indictment.

Officials estimate that during its five years operating in the country the ring shipped around US$70 million to Colombia and Venezuela, using "mules," especially from South American nations.

The "mules" carrying the money would come to the country with a tourist visa, stayed a few days, during which they stuffed suitcases with $300,000 dollars each prior to returning.

The heads of the ring have been identified as Huber Oswaldo Buitrago Ruiz (alias Julio, El Negro y El Burro) and Ángel María Buitrago Vacca (alias El Rubio and El Mono).

In Venezuela the money was received by a person identified as Diego Maria Guzman Arango (aka Mara and Maradona).

The Colombian Ginaliz Quintero Flores and the Dominican Pedro de Jesus allegedly helped recruit people for the network.

It also accuses the Colombian Pedro Julio Cardenas (aka El Constructor) and Marcos Tulio Vivas Sanchez to build caches in properties acquired by the ring to store large amounts of money and drugs, such as an industrial building in the sector Engombe, Santo Domingo West, the Invi in Santiago, and in a villa near Jimenoa falls in Jarabacoa.

The authorities accuse the Venezuelan Javier Carillo and the Colombians Clara Maritza Romero Jaimes, Monica Carolina Jaimes Romero, Cesar Escalante Bautillo Lizarazo, Diana Milena Alfonso and Jaime Alberto Muñoz Delgado of transport money in suitcases and charged between 10,000 and 13,000 dollars for each trip.

The DNI began to track the group after the arrest of Humberto Rodriguez Buitrago on 17 September.


National District judge Amauri Marcos Martinez set the arraignment of the group for 6pm today, after the hearing was suspended Saturday, when several defense lawyers claimed they haven’t had time to study the case.


Dominican Republic: International money-laundering network busted – The cash was sent in increments of US$300,000, stuffed inside false-bottom suitcases of travelers flying out of some of the Dominican Republic’s largest airports.

Each month, mules – the nickname for those engaged in trafficking – would smuggle between US$2.5 million and US$12.5 million in illicit narco-trafficking proceeds from the Dominican Republic to Panama, Colombia and Venezuela, authorities said.

The scheme went on for at least five years, allowing a large criminal network, headed by two Colombians, to launder an estimated total of US$350 million, authorities said.

The operation came to a dramatic end when on Dec. 13 the Dominican National Department of Investigations and the Attorney General’s office announced it had arrested at least a dozen suspects and made various seizures.

Authorities seized 20 luxury vehicles, apartments, more than US$1 million in cash, 15 kilograms (33 pounds) of cocaine and various weapons.

Germán Miranda Villalona, director of the Attorney General’s Money Laundering Unit, said the bust should send a message that foreign drug gangs “will not be allowed to use the country as a refuge for their illicit activities.”

International authorities have identified the smuggling of bulk cash as a major problem that helps drug gangs launder proceeds. Most countries limit the amount of cash one can carry across borders to US$10,000.

The schemes can be highly complex, according to a primer from the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

“Criminal organizations rely on complex transportation and smuggling networks to move and launder their illicit proceeds,” the office said. “For example, bulk cash intended for a drug trafficking organization in Colombia may begin its journey in Philadelphia, Pa., and travel through many locations, along several routes. … Those same proceeds may then move through Mexico, Panama or other countries before arriving at their destination.”

In this case, the alleged bosses of the group were identified as Colombian brothers Huber Oswaldo Buitrago Ruiz, who went by “Julio,” “El Negro,” and “El Burro”; and Ángel María Buitrago Vacca, who went by “El Rubio” and “El Mono.”

Colombian Ginaliz Quintero Flores and Dominican national Pedro de Jesús were the alleged organizers who helped recruit mules.

Among those who allegedly traveled with the cash in their suitcases were Venezuelan Javier Carillo and Colombians Clara Maritza Jaimes Romero, Mónica Carolina Jaimes Romero, César Bautillo Escalanta Lizarazo, Diana Milena Alfonso and Jaime Alberto Delgado Muñoz. They were paid between US$10,000 and US$13,000 for each trip, authorities said.

Authorities identified Venezuelan Diego María Guzmán Arango as the person in that South American country who received the mules once they arrived from the Dominican Republic.

The Attorney General’s office also accused Colombian nationals Pedro Julio Cárdenas, known as “El Constructor” and Marcos Tulio Vivas Sánchez of constructing spaces in apartments and homes where the alleged drug traffickers stashed large amounts of cash and narcotics.

Dominican news agencies put the number of suspects as high as 26, including eight Venezuelans, 14 Colombians and four Dominicans. But they did not name all of those detained. Authorities are searching for at least four other suspects.

Col. Fidel Calcaño Paulino, chief of operations at the National Department of Investigations, said the investigation began about six months ago. The case widened when investigators arrested Humberto Buitrago Rodríguez, who was allegedly involved, in September.

Miranda said the mules would arrive in the Dominican Republic traveling on tourist visas. Once here, they’d pick up specially designed false-bottom suitcases with chambers filled with cash, Miranda said.

The suitcases “were prepared with double bottoms that were not detected by the X-ray machines,” he said. “They brought them here and filled them with money,” with each suitcase able to carry as much as US$300,000.”


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Go back | Date: 02 Jan 2013
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