Spanish version

WAKED CASE

Panama informed about Waked investigation

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency detailed part of its investigation in a letter to Panama prosecutors.

Spanish version

Temas:

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) confirmed that it has been investigating the Waked Group for money laundering for 10 years, and that Panamanian authorities have been involved in the process.

The facts are detailed in a letter signed by the DEA director in Panama to Drugs Prosecutor Markel Iván Mora, who is investigating the Waked Group.

The letter details that the investigation started with the detention of Mexican citizen Ariadna Hernandez-Lozada at Tocumen International Airport with $217,000 in August 2006.

As part of that investigation, police tracked the money to María González Reyes and Ali Abd Fares-Shaaban. A raid of the residence of Fares-Shaaban resuled in the seizure of invoices in the amount of $10 million, including funds destined for the Waked Group.

Fares-Shaaban told the authorities that, over four or five years, he had received $2 million in cash weekly through Tocumen Airport that was brought in by "mules," or people paid to carry the cash.

"This information collected in Panama was what prompted the beginning of our investigation," said the DEA in the letter.

But the participation of Panama in the investigation did not end there.

Subsequently, "via judicial assistance," the DEA obtained banking information that complemented the evidence collected by the DEA which resulted in charges being filed against Nidal Waked in Florida. That evidence also resulted in the U.S. Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) placing 68 companies of the Waked Group on the Clinton list, which prohibits it from engaging in transactions with any entity with U.S. ties, including banks and suppliers.

Details in the letter from the DEA confirms statements made in a May 13 press conference by U.S. Ambassador to Panama John Feeley, who said that the investigation into the Wakeds took a decade, and that it involved a number of agencies.

The DEA said that the money came from Colombian organizations transporting cocaine from Colombia to Central America for final distribution in the United States. These organizations, the DEA said, include the Sinaloa cartel.

The illicit profits were transported to Panama and the Waked companies were used to launder the proceeds. This was done through false invoicing and other methods.

"It is presumed that Nidal Ahmed Waked-Hatum and Abdul Mohamed Waked-Fares used these methods of money laundering for handling the illicit moneys for different drug trafficking organizations," the letter said.

The letter also detailed the charges and alleged violations of U.S. laws committed by Nidal Waked, who was arrested May 4 in Colombia and who is awaiting extradition.

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