Argentina ‘Narco-Rice’ Investigation Turns Towards Soccer

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Authorities in Argentina are investigating everything from soccer matches and players’ rights to investments in a crematorium as part of the second phase of an inquiry into a vast Colombian cocaine trafficking ring operating out of the Southern Cone nation.

As part of the “narco-arroz” (narco-rice) case, authorities in Argentina are looking at as many as 60 individuals — led by Argentine lawyer Guillermo Heisinger and his Colombian associate Carlos Yorelmy Duarte Díaz — and 23 companies for money laundering, Clarín reported

According to the 700-page report prepared by Argentina’s Economic Crime and Money Laundering Bureau (Procuraduría de Criminalidad Económica y Lavado de Activos – PROCELAC) and Attorney General’s Office for Drug-Related Crimes (Procuraduría de Narcocriminalidad – PROCUNAR), the network allegedly managed to launder $14 million through 314 transactions since 2014, according to Clarín. 

One way the network planned to launder money was through an agreement signed between Argentina’s El Porvenir soccer club and International Trade & Commerce S.A. (ITC) — a company owned by Heisinger and Duarte Díaz — for $2,160,000 pesos (around $125,000) in exchange for 70 percent of the economic rights of its players purchased from Rosario Central, Clarín reported in April 2016. 

SEE ALSO: Coverage of Elites and Organized Crime

While the transaction never happened, the network did launder money through different promotional and broadcast companies, as well as the construction of a 600,000 peso (around $35,000) swimming pool and the investment of millions of pesos into a crematorium, among other things. 

The narco-rice case began in September 2015 when authorities in Argentina dismantled a Colombian transnational drug trafficking network after raiding a warehouse in the major port city of Rosario and discovering cocaine-infused rice destined for Africa as part of the United Nations’ Zero Hunger Challenge. 

In October 2015, Argentina’s Attorney General’s Office ordered pretrial detention for 13 members of the network accused of criminal association and attempted drug smuggling, according to a press release

InSight Crime Analysis 

The narco-rice case is clearly an elites and organized crime story, but it’s also becoming an intriguing story about soccer and crime. Hard Business — one of many companies owned by Heisinger and Duarte Díaz — signed a contract in 2014 with Full Play International Television S.A. in which Hard Business paid Full Play 1,600,000 pesos (around $93,000) to allegedly launder drug money through the profits made from ticket sales for two soccer games played between Colombia and Jordan on May 31, 2014, and Colombia and Senegal on June 6, 2014.

SEE ALSO: Coverage of Soccer and Organized Crime

Full Play International is owned by Hugo and Mariano Jinkis, both of whom face charges in the United States for allegedly paying bribes in exchange for broadcast and marketing rights to FIFA events in Latin America, including the Copa América tournament and the Copa Libertadores.

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