The Cleaners

AP photo



Ricardo Swire



Money lau­ndering occurs in almost every country. The ability of white collar criminals to penetrate virtually any financial system makes every jurisdiction a potential cleaning centre. Deceptive schemes involve transfer of cash via several different jurisdictions to camouflage its origin. US International Narcotics Control Strategy Reports (INCSR) identify money laundering priority jurisdictions and countries by assigning three categories. Jurisdictions of Primary Concern, Jurisdictions of Concern and Other Jurisdictions Monitored.


The US Bureau of International Narcotics & Law Enforcement Affairs classifies “PEPs” as individuals entrusted with prominent public functions in a country such as heads of state, senior politicians, main political party officials, senior executives of state-owned corporations, judicial and military officials. On April 18, 2018 the multinational law enforcement “Operation Regional Shield 2” detained a senior Guatemalan military officer who laundered criminal gang MS13’s extortion money.


The joint US/Honduras/El Salvador/Guatemala enforcement squad electronically intercepted phone calls between the Colonel and MS13’s boss-of-bosses. Intelligence records noted the June 2017 face-to-face-meeting, where “Hamster Locos Salvatrucha’s” son delivered cash to the Guatemalan army’s department of Quetzaltenango second-in-command. Operation Regional Shield 2 covered fourteen of Guatemala’s twenty departments or parishes.


The former Guatemalan Defense Ministry Logistics Director publicly reported a modest US$1300 monthly salary. Between 2009 and 2017 internal security intelligence records tabulated the Colonel’s personal worth as US$2 million. The senior soldier’s main clandestine role was depositing MS13’s cash. The Operation Regional Shield 2 team also arrested the department of Chimaltenango Police Commissioner. The district’s top law enforcer leaked secret information to MS13 that jeopardized previous missions.


In June 2017 US Immigration & Customs agents teamed up with counterparts from Homeland Security Investigations in New York to stage “Operation Matador.” MS13 was targeted as a result of seventeen murders since January 01st 2016, committed in the Long Island, Suffolk County community. In April 2017 corpses of four young men were discovered in New York’s Central Islip neighborhood. MS13 consists of more than thirty-thousand members. The transnational criminal organization operates in at least five countries including America.


Patterns highlighted an increase in Guatemalan military officers, recruited to launder MS13’s extortion cash, since the US Treasury Department initiated a freeze on gang members’ financial assets. MS13’s American chapter began with the influx of Salvadoran ex-military refugees, who used Los Angeles as an escape route from civil war at home. The transnational criminal organization’s money generated in America is smuggled across the Mexican border, onward to the Northern Triangle and warehoused in El Salvador.





Ricardo Swire - Tuck Magazine

Ricardo Swire

Ricardo Swire is the Principal Consultant at R-L-H Security Consultants & Business Support Services and writes on a number of important issues.

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