Spain Indicts Criminal Group Accused of Financing FARC

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Spain’s National Court has indicted 52 people for laundering drug money, some of which allegedly helped in financing the FARC, further highlighting the rebel group’s international reach.

Judge Pablo Ruz issued the charges, stating that the alleged drug trafficking group, comprised mainly of Colombians and Ecuadoreans, had been operating in Spain since 2007. Spanish officials estimated that up to $270 million may have been laundered until the group was dismantled in October 2010.

The majority of its members have been charged with laundering money. However, the group’s leaders, Spain’s Luis Berho and his Ecuadorean wife Alexandra Fasce, have also been accused of collaborating with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).

Though not all of the $270 million reached South America, over $15 million is thought to have been sent to Colombia with the FARC receiving a significant amount. The primary recipient for the FARC is said to have been Juan Manuel Gomez Buitrago, who is accused of ties to the guerrilla group, reported EFE news agency. A further 12 people registered under Gomez’s address also received money which could have been used to finance the FARC’s operations, according to the charges.

InSight Crime Analysis

Though the group’s alleged ties to the FARC shows the guerrilla group’s reach outside of Colombia, it is important to note that financing appears to have come from, in this instance, sympathizers rather than FARC personnel acting in Spain, as was the case with the arrest of the FARC’s alleged co-ordinater of European operations in 2008, Maria Remedios Garcia Albert.

This outsourcing could be due to the FARC lacking the requisite skills among their own ranks to carry out a sophisticated laundering operation. As a Brookings Institute report in 2009 noted, armed insurgents who entered the organization at a young age likely lack the operational know-how for complex money laundering schemes schemes such as these.

Spain has long been a focus of the FARC — along with numerous other criminal organizations — thanks to it serving as a key access point to Europe for cocaine shipments. It seems probable that in exchange for laundering the cash, the FARC may have sent shipments of cocaine to the Spain-based group. If so, these shipments would likely have been moved through Venezuela, a key transit route for cocaine bound for Europe.

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