Police arrested the head of Costa Rica’s Limón soccer team Thursday as a suspect in a multi-million dollar money-laundering scheme allegedly linked to the U.S. underground tobacco market.
Agents from the Judicial Investigative Police (OIJ) and the Chief Prosecutor’s Office detained Carlos Pascal, president of Limón Fútbol Club, and raided over half a dozen buildings, including restaurants and a hotel, all linked to Pascal.
Prosecutors said funds of up to $30 million were transferred to Pascal’s bank account from Rodney Morrison, a onetime major supplier of untaxed cigarettes that flowed from New York’s Indian reservations.
Morrison, a non-Indian, was sentenced in a U.S. court to 10 years in prison in connection with the tobacco black market but a jury acquitted him of the more heinous allegations against him, including a charge that he ordered the murder of a rival smoke shop keeper, according to The Associated Press.
Pascal told reporters his money is legitimate.
But Costa Rican prosecutors said they have evidence that proves the contrary.
“It’s clearly established that the money came directly from this American with the last name Morrison who, according to U.S. authorities, has been connected to illicit activities that include ordering murder, tax evasion and other kinds of actions typical of organized crime,” Chief Prosecutor Jorge Chavarría said in a Thursday press conference.
“We are not willing to permit the use of this country for money laundering,” he added.
The police raids in Limón included Supermercado Rigo’s, Restaurante Reina’s, Hotel Tortuga Relax, Restaurante y Discoteque Julitos, the offices of the Limón Fútbol Club and Pascal’s private home, according to a news release from the Public Ministry.
The Limón entrepreneur will be placed in six months of preventive prison. He could face from eight to 15 years for money laundering.
This is the second scandal in 2011 involving higher-ups in Costa Rican soccer clubs. In January, Minor Vargas, owner of three soccer clubs and dozens of other businesses, was arrested in New York for being linked to a $670 million fraud scheme.