The US Attorney's Office in the Southern District of Florida has filed a notice of appeal from a court order denying it a criminal forfeiture judgment against Nidal Waked Hatum, a principal leader of Panama's Waked Money Laundering Organization. The defendant, in his plea agreement,* in which he pled to money laundering conspiracy, agreed to a forfeiture, but the sentencing judge denied it, "based upon the unique circumstances of this case," and found the requested amount "excessive."
We are talking about a $200,852,000 judgment, which is twice the undisputed amount of funds involved in the laundering conspiracy, against one of the leaders of one of Central America's oldest, and largest, money laundering organizations, one which has operated in the Republic of Panama for years with impunity, and with immunity from prosecution by the corrupt local authorities.
Though we do not yet have the benefit of the Brief of Appellant, previous filings in the case, during which prosecutors sought to reverse the order, provide a preview of what they intend to assert on appeal. These are verbatim quotes from the pleadings:
1. Criminal Forfeiture is mandatory under the circumstances and is pursuant to Federal Law.
2. The Court exceeded its authority by refusing to impose a forfeiture order against Waked.
3. The Court's reasons for refusing to order forfeiture are clearly erroneous.
4. The fact that Waked no longer possessed the funds involved in the money laundering conspiracy does not preclude forfeiture of an equivalent amount.
5. A forfeiture amount cannot be reduced or eliminated based upon a defendant's restitution order, or compensation to victims.
6. The Court's order ignored Congress' interest in vindicating the public interest in the integrity of the financial systems of the United States.
7. The United States' requested $200,852,000 is not Constitutionally excessive.
* We express no opinion regarding the propriety of his short two-year sentence, and the special provision in his Plea Agreement, which excused him from testifying against anyone. After serving his sentence, Waked was deported from the United States. He obviously rendered Substantial Assistance to US law enforcement in some form, but the details will most likely remain hidden from public view.
Chronicles of Monte Friesner - Financial Crime Analyst
Contributed by Kenneth Rijock - Financial Crime Consultant