Yesterday TV show “La Cornisa” published a document revealing a part of late drug-trafficking lord Pablo Escobar’s assets – at least US$ 170 million – along with money made after by the Cali cartel – heir of the infamous Medellín cartel led by Escobar – has been laundered in Argentina.
Escobar’s assets came with his son and wife, who, after being rejected in several countries, made it to Argentina and changed their identity. They are now named María Isabel Santos and Sebastián Marroquín, respectively. The money proceeding from posterior drug-trafficking, on the other hand, ended up in the country as a result of an association between Escobar’s heir and leader of the Cali cartel, José Bayron Piedrahita Ceballos, and an Argentine lawyer, Mateo Corvo Dolcet, facilitated by Escobar’s son and wife.
The journalist who introduced the report interviewed Security Minister Patricia Bullrich, who assured that the money laundering began in 2010, “when Argentina was a haven to which money from drug-trafficking came.”
“When Dolcet, along with other people, was arrested, something incredible and unheard of in our country was discovered: a document in which Escobar’s family introduces Piedrahita Ceballos to Corvo Dolcet in exchange for a 4.5 percent commission of the entire money laundering business they would conduct in Argentina. This means that [Escobar’s] wife and widow, who came here saying ‘we don’t want anything to do with drug-trafficking,’ went back to doing what Escobar did,” Bullrich said. The document was signed in 2011.
This September, the US’s Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), in collaboration with local Police, arrested Piedrahita Ceballos in Colombia. At the same time, Argentine Border Patrol and Federal Police arrested Corvo Dolcet, along with five other people, and accused them of being part of an organization that laundered money by setting up companies and conducting investments in the country.
“It was a set up of ghost companies with the purpose of laundering this money. In Argentina, along with Colombia, we have conducted an extremely important operation to find out how the Medellín and Cali cartels have branched out in our country, and who their contacts have been,” explained Bullrich.
“Reports from the Financial Information Unit [UIF, the government’s organization tasked with fighting money laundering, among other things] determined that the organization focused on certain sectors of business to launder money. On one hand, real estate initiatives conducted by a group led by Corvo Dolcet. On another, projects in the bar/cafe industry and show-business production, through a number of companies,” Bullrich added.
Secretary of Interior Security Gerardo Milman, also interviewed by the show in the making of the report said, “Argentina seemed to be a country where it was easy to bring in dirty money, as authorities looked the other way.” He also indicated that the investigation will try to determine if part of that money “went to politics.” As a result of the ongoing investigation, the Financial Information Unit has requested a judge to call Escobar’s son and widow into questioning regarding their alleged involvement in the operations.