**POLICE IN SPAIN BUST MAJOR MONEY LAUNDERING CARTEL USING “MONEY TRANSFER SHOPS”**
FROM THE - JOURNALS of Monte Friesner ~ Financial Crime Consultant for WANTED SA ~
Thursday February 03, 2011 >
WANTED SA this morning received information that 28 people in Spain were arrested, most of them Dominican nationals without criminal records, are accused of using a money-transfer business to launder more than 100 million Euros ($138 million) in ill-gotten gains mainly from drug trafficking.
The leaders, a couple in their mid-30s, lived in Madrid’s Tetuan district near the headquarters of La Real de Envios, which was the firm they used to conceal their crimes. Both lived an otherwise normal life, without any extravagant spending.
Jorge and Minerva – the surnames were withheld – each day used to go to one of the firm’s long-distance call shops to oversee the business, which included siblings, nephews and cousins of the couple.
At the call shop, where long-distance telephone calls could be made, some of their customers would make legal wire transfers to their countries of origin and the members of the band would insert in among them wire transfers of illegally obtained funds.
The head of the Madrid police’s anti-money-laundering unit told reporters that, according to current regulations, an individual may send up to 3,000 Euros ($4,140) abroad every quarter, but normally immigrants send between 200 and 400 Euros ($276-$552) per month, a range that the band generally stayed within to make its transfers of illegal money.
The large amount of money that the group handled allowed them to charge very low fees to their legal customers, which enabled them to “puncture” the market for wire transfer business.
That situation combined with the large volume of cash they moved made the police suspicious, and a year ago authorities verified that the owner of the firm was engaging in money laundering.
Investigators needed a number of months to determine the full scope of the operation and collect evidence.
Authorities calculate that the group began its work more than eight years ago in several call shops and, as the business went well for them at first, they decided in 2009 to found their own firm to cover their activities.
Those activities were so prosperous that in recent months they had been acquiring another call shop almost every week.
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