January 23rd, 2013 (InsideCostaRica.com) Reynaldo Velasquez, chief of the money laundering unit at the Judicial Investigation Organization (OIJ), told local media yesterday that Costa Rica is a “paradise for money laundering,” which, according to him, is evidenced by an accelerating real estate industry on the country’s coasts, promoted by an influx of cash of “unknown origins.”
Velasquez stated that the OIJ has also noticed an increase in the use of Euros in order to sanitize funds.
“We are beginning to see a lot of Euros coming into our economy, which is not very common, but we are seeing a big flow of Euros, and…where do these Euros come from? Who deals in Euros here? Despite this, there are transactions going on,” he added.
Velasquez said that those with extensive knowledge and involvement in the finance industry, as well as the country’s attorneys, are those who most commonly are involved in money laundering activity.
“Any type of person can commit the crime, however, they are generally advised and guided by people with knowledge of the law, banking and finances, because they know the systems best. Historically in Costa Rica, attorneys, notaries and people in the finance industry are very commonly involved,” he said.
The money laundering chief mentioned several methods used by money launders, such as the purchase of real estate or vehicles in cash, staggered bank deposits below $10,000 each, or by having associates make deposits in various bank accounts to simulate legitimate commercial activity.
Costa Rica has taken steps in recent years to stem money laundering activity, including “know your customer” – style regulations for banking, and president Laura Chinchilla has introduced legislation that would allow the government to seize property from owners who cannot prove the origin of the funds used to purchase the property.