San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Costa Rica public security minister: Recent money laundering investigations are 'sign that the system works'

Following the discovery of another large money laundering operation in Costa Rica this week, the country’s public security minister said that investigations were proof that the system “works.”

On Thursday, agents from the Judicial Investigation Police raided four locations in San José as part of a money laundering case involving a Costa Rican lawyer and a Venezuelan national. Authorities froze $15.5 million in suspicious transfers. There were no arrests.

Public Security Minister Mario Zamora said that this latest bust shows that Costa Rica has the means and the political will to investigate and prosecute financial crime.

News of this latest investigation comes on the heels of an arrest in the biggest money-laundering operation in history smashed by Costa Rican and United States authorities. Last May, Arthur Budovsky Belanchuk, a Costa Rican citizen, was arrested at Madrid’s Barajas International Airport in connection with the illicit network that funneled $6 billion from illegal sources into 16 countries via a money wiring service called Liberty Reserve.

Costa Rica’s lax regulation of online businesses attracts groups from around the world to set up Internet gambling and other more notorious operations in the country, reported The Associated Press in Salon.

Zamora pushed back against the characterization of Costa Rica as a “paradise” for money laundering, noting that only $100 million of the $6 billion laundered through Liberty passed through Costa Rica.

“The drug trafficking phenomenon and its generation of profits is present in the region and established in the banking system and illicit networks. This is part of the challenge facing our country,” Zamora said.

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