|Money Laundering and Financial Crimes in Costa Rica...! - TicoVisión|
|Publicado en 02/12/11 a 15:17:24 GMT-06:00 Por Administrador|
In addition, Costa Rica has a sizeable internet gaming industry which in practice is almost unregulated.
02 de Diciembre de 2011 | TicoVisión | Redacción - | Opinión | San José, Costa Rica | Tribuna para el Libre Pensamiento
and Financial Crimes in Costa Rica...!
John F.Bisner Ureña
While Costa Rica is not a major regional financial center, it remains vulnerable to money laundering and other financial crimes. Illicit proceeds from fraud, trafficking in persons, arms, narcotics trafficking (mainly cocaine), and corruption are laundered in Costa Rica. To a limited extent, money laundering/terrorist financing occurs across the formal financial sector, within the free trade zones (FTZs), and in the non-bank financial system. Costa Rica has 33 FTZs, used by approximately 270 companies.
In addition, Costa Rica has a sizeable internet gaming industry which in practice is almost unregulated. While local criminals are active, the majority of laundered criminal proceeds derive from foreign criminal activity. Costa Rica does not have a significant market for smuggled goods, however, criminal organizations involved in fraud, trafficking in persons, arms, narcotics trafficking, and corruption are known to utilize the international trade system to move and launder their criminal proceeds.
INCSR 2011 Volume II Country Database:
The Government of Costa Rica (GOCR) reports that Costa Rica is primarily used as a bridge to send funds to and from other jurisdictions using, in many cases, companies or banks established in offshore financial centers. Nicaraguans residing in Costa Rica send approximately $200 million in remittances annually to family members in their home country, much of which is sent via unlicensed money remitters.
These unregulated businesses are a significant risk for money laundering and a potential mechanism for terrorist financing. Costa Rica has demonstrated a genuine commitment to strengthening its anti- money laundering/counter-terrorist financing (AML/CFT) regime. As a result of a law passed in 2009, in 2010 Costa Rica continued implementing new regulations directed at combating money laundering, terrorist financing, and organized crime. Costa Rica also created a new National Anti-Drug Commissioner position that is responsible for monitoring and evaluating the GOCR‘s policies and plans to combat money laundering.
DO FINANCIAL INSTITUTIONS ENGAGE IN CURRENCY TRANSACTIONS RELATED TO INTERNATIONAL NARCOTICS TRAFFICKING THAT INCLUDE SIGNIFICANT AMOUNTS OF US CURRENCY; CURRENCY DERIVED FROM ILLEGAL SALES IN THE U.S.; OR THAT OTHERWISE SIGNIFICANTLY AFFECT THE U.S.: NO
CRIMINALIZATION OF MONEY LAUNDERING:
Legal persons covered: criminally: NO civilly: YES
CRIMINALIZATION OF TERRORIST FINANCING:
UN lists of designated terrorists or terrorist entities distributed to financial institutions: YES
Covered entities: Banks and savings and loan cooperatives; pension funds; money exchangers or remitters; investment fund and safekeeping companies; credit institutions; issuers, sellers or redeemers of travelers checks and postal money orders; and securities dealers.
SUSPICIOUS TRANSACTION REPORTING REQUIREMENTS:
Covered entities: Banks and savings and loan cooperatives; pension funds; money exchangers or remitters; fiduciary trust, investment fund and safekeeping companies, and asset managers; credit institutions; issuers, sellers or redeemers of travelers checks and postal money orders; securities dealers; and real estate agents.
Number of CTRs received and time frame: Not available
MONEY LAUNDERING CRIMINAL PROSECUTIONS/CONVICTIONS:
Convictions: Ten - January through October 2010
Assets forfeited: criminally: $9,693,214.00 in FY2010 civilly: Not applicable
Money Laundering and Financial Crimes
RECORDS EXCHANGE MECHANISM:
With other governments/jurisdictions: YES
In December 2010, the Financial Action Task Force of South America (GAFISUD) admitted Costa Rica as a member, formally marking its departure from the Caribbean Financial Action Task Force (CFATF).
ENFORCEMENT AND IMPLEMENTATION ISSUES AND COMMENTS:
Money laundering cannot be charged as an additional offense to the predicate crime (e.g., a drug dealer who is convicted on drug charges cannot also be prosecuted for laundering the drug proceeds). In addition, criminal liability does not extend to legal persons.
There are over 250 Internet sports book companies registered to operate in Costa Rica. The industry transacts approximately $12 billion annually and employs 10,000 people. This industry in practice is almost unregulated. The FIU reports that Costa Rican attorneys oftentimes conduct cash purchases of real estate on behalf of persons located in the U.S. The FIU has had significant difficulties verifying the identity and source of funds for those purchases.
The FIU does not directly receive cash transaction reports (CTRs). Each supervisory entity that receives CTRs holds them unless it determines that further analysis is required or the FIU requests the reports. Costa Rica fully cooperates with appropriate United States government law enforcement agencies investigating financial crimes related to narcotics and other crimes. Additionally, Costa Rica has a tax information exchange agreement with the U.S.
Law 8719 authorizes the FIU to administratively freeze assets or accounts that are subject to an ongoing money laundering or narcotics investigation by the host government authority without a prior Court order (a judicial order must be obtained within 5 days after the seizure). This provision was used in several money laundering cases involving bulk cash smuggling during 2010.
Although the GOCR enacted a provision to allow for civil forfeitures in 2009, no case has been pursued by prosecutors. The prosecutors state they have been reluctant to try cases under this law, because they fear these cases will not hold up in court. Based on the non-use of this provision, it is unclear whether the GOCR will assist other countries in obtaining non-conviction-based forfeiture.
Several pieces of real property were identified and frozen by the U.S. Office of Foreign Asset Control (OFAC) owned by a Colombian National that resides in Costa Rica and uses his farms to launder funds for the FARC. This subject and his property were named as a second tier in the King-Pin Act with money laundering ties to the FARC. Shortly after the OFAC report was publicized in Costa Rica the subject fled Costa Rica and returned to Colombia.
With so much to be done, Costa Rica is cooperating with the USA and other International organizations to fight organized crime and drug cartels; the commitment to minimize the drug trafficking and money laundering is a priority for the Costarican and USA government national security.
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