Costa Rica is a hot outsourcing destination for blue-chip companies.It’s also a top-ranked, offshore money laundromat for the world’s mobsters.
Law enforcement officials say laundering is par for the course in this country, which has fallen into the crosshairs of flush drug cartels seeking not just trafficking routes but places to stash illicit cash.
International mafia and drug lords inject proceeds into almost anything: banks, real estate and auto mechanic shops, to clean up dirty money into wholesome assets.
Traditionally a peaceful people with no army, Costa Ricans reckon they are still somewhat safe from the gory fight being waged among drug cartels and militaries in other Central American countries like Guatemala. But officials here are wary as they watch the fierce battles spilling over the borders from drug-war-stricken Mexico.
Contract killings are rising in Costa Rica and though this country may not be on the frontlines of the region’s drug wars, it could be housing some of the funds that help finance the frays.
According to a recent report on financial crimes by the U.S. State Department, proceeds from corruption as well as weapons, narcotics and human trafficking are laundered in Costa Rica, mostly derived from foreign activity.
An annual $4.47 billion slipped through this country via tax evasion, crime and corruption on average between 2000 and 2008, according to a January 2011 report by Global Financial Integrity, a nonprofit research and advocacy group in Washington, D.C. Compared with the small country’s economy, that’s equal to more than one-fifth of gross domestic product averaged out over the same period ($20.44 billion).
Costa Rica went from medium to high-risk of money laundering when the United States added the country — a magnet for computer giants Intel, IBM and Hewlett Packard — to its annual list of world’s top drug-producing or transit nations in September 2010, said Daniel Ferranti, product manager for Washington, D.C.-based Promontory Compliance Solutions.
This article is the first in a three-part series on Costa Rica’s battle with the drug cartels.
Direct news link: here
Second part link: here
Third part link: here