December 20th, 2013 (InsideCostaRica.com) The Public Ministry and the Ministry of Security conducted 18 raids in Limon this week on an international drug trafficking network dedicated to trafficking drugs between Colombia, Costa Rica and Belgium. The group operated in conjunction with two police officers of the Fuerza Publica as well as bank employees.
A total of 12 suspects were arrested as part of the raids, including two employees of the Banco Costa Rica (BCR) and two Fuerza Publica police officers. The bank employees are suspected of assisting in the laundering of illegal proceeds to finance the group’s local operations.
The raids took place on Tuesday, and a day later the Costa Rican Banking Association (ABC) reminded the public that Sunday, December 22nd would be the last day for bank customers to comply with “Know Your Customer” regulations or face having their accounts frozen or closed. Though those regulations were not a direct result of Tuesday’s discovery of bank employee collaboration with the drug smuggling ring, banking regulators are now expressing their concern and the need for even more stringent controls.
Financial regulators said they are considering more stringent controls for both bank customers and employees in the coming months.
“The campaign we have been doing to update [customer financial information] is part of this, but the big problem is that people will not cooperate,” Gilberto Serrando, president of the ABC told reporters.
Regulators point not only to Tuesday’s raids in Limon, but to other recent money laundering cases, such as that of Liberty Reserve, which authorities in the United States called the largest money laundering operation in history.
“These people have very innovative and sophisticated mechanisms,” Javier Cascante, General Superintendent of Financial Institutions told reporters, adding that controls need to be improved.