Spanish version

INTERNATIONAL

Grupo Waked placed on sanctions list

The family has been accused of money laundering by the U.S. government.

Spanish version

Temas:

One of the most powerful economic groups in the country, in the hands of the Waked family led by Abdul Waked and Nidal Waked, was linked yesterday to an international network of drug trafficking and money-laundering by the U.S. Department of the Treasury and the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA).

U.S. authorities placed nine people and 68 companies on the Clinton list, calling the operation the Waked Money Laundering Organization.

According to US authorities, the family used its businesses to launder money for drug traffickers by using false invoicing and other methods. The U.S. has frozen the family's assets in that country through the Office of Foreign Asset Control (OFAC).

The family controls Latin America's largest duty-free chain and imports some of the most prestigious luxury brands in the world.

Its holdings in Panama include Soho Mall, Millennium Plaza, Hometeck and Felix B. Maduro, as well as a number of real estate projects. Also included on the list is Balboa Bank, where Nidal Waked is treasurer.

The DEA arrested Nidal Waked in Colombia Wednesday.

Tocumen International Airport Manager Joseph Fidanque III reported on Thursday that he requested the resignation of José Frade from the board of directors of the terminal. He represented Waked.

U.S. Embassy senior official Kevin O'Reilly met Thursday with officials from the Public Ministry, including Attorney General Kenia Porcell. 

The Waked family controls about 100 duty free stores at airports, border crossings and ports, and has 133 retail stores across Latin America.

The other individuals named by the U.S. government were Abu Dawud, and Ali, Gazy  and Jalal Waked Hatum, the last three being brothers of Nidal Waked. Also named was Mohamed Abdo Waked Darwich (alias Hamudi Waked), the son of Abdul Waked.

The other two people named were Norman Douglas Castro Montoto and Lucía Touzard Romo, who were part of the organization.

Nidal Waked, al momento de su detención la noche del pasado miércoles, en Bogotá.

Official sources in Colombia explained that the arrest was made by a special command unit of the police anti-narcotics squad, together with the DEA.

According to the Colombian newspaper El Tiempo, the investigation dates back to 2009 when the DEA and the Treasury Department began working with their Colombian counterparts to clarify movements of money from members of the Waked family.

Last year, Guatemalan authorities ordered the closure of 10 duty free shops linked to the family for customs fraud.

Organización Waked Expandir Imagen
Organización Waked LA PRENSA/Roy Hernández

The Waked family is one of Panama's most important business groups, with holdings in media, retail businesses, importing and real estate.

The implications of appearing on the Clinton list are devastating. No U.S. citizen or company based in that country can receive or send money or goods from any business on that list. The exemptions are the daily newspapers La Estrella and El Siglo, and shops in Millennium Square and Soho Mall, but only until July 6, 2016.

The Public Ministry announced an "immediate" investigation into the accusations by the U.S. Government.

"This research must determine responsibility regarding the charges for the alleged crimes of money laundering, drug trafficking and any other arising out of the investigation," said prosecutors.

The Waked family said through the newspaper La Estrella that they will cooperate with the investigation. It added that the origins of its funds are lawful and that it has generated wealth in the country for more than 40 years.

Abdul Waked circulated a message on social media that said the accusations are "false and unfounded."

The Superintendency of Banks announced it has taken over the operations of Balboa Bank & Trust Corp. to protect the interests of investors.

Agregados a la Lista Clinton Expandir Imagen
Agregados a la Lista Clinton LA PRENSA/Roy Hernández

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