March 18th, 2013 (InsideCostaRica.com) Judicial authorities say that drug traffickers and money launderers have set their sights on struggling hotel owners, as the sector struggles under a weak economy, offering these businesses a way out of their financial problems – by laundering their illicit proceeds.
In fact, the Judicial Investigation Organization (OIJ) is investigating whether the murder of hotel owner, Geovanny Soto, 52 and his two sons Maurice and Emmanuel in La Fortuna de San Carlos in February may be linked to money laundering. It has emerged that the hotel owner was lent $1.5 million by a Nicaraguan man which may have resulted in his murder.
The expert from the OIJ said one method used by money launderers and hotel owners they manage to corrupt is by justifying the deposits of large sums of money into the banking system by inflating their occupancy numbers, when in fact most of the hotel is empty.
Gustavo Araya, vice president of the Costa Rican Chamber of Hotels, told local news source, CR Hoy, that he knows of two or three other hotels located in La Fortuna that are involved in such activity.
One factor that can draw attention to such hotels is reporting high income at a time when the sector is struggling.
Araya called on hotel owners and businessmen who are going through a financial crisis to stick to their values and avoid illegal activity.
Araya told of another method of corruption used by money launderers to lure in struggling business owners. He said that in 2007, a group was offering to lend money to the hotel sector at interest rates so low that they were “ridiculous.” However, one of the conditions for the loan was that the money had to be picked up in person in Guatemala.
“I can tell you that one of these people were shot months later in an area of Heredia,” Araya said.