Peru: narco-mineral integration

On Oct. 10, the US Justice Department announced the seizure of more than $31 million in funds allegedly “connected to an international money laundering scheme run by a drug trafficking organization operated by members of the S├ínchez-Paredes family,” a Peruvian clan deemed by US law enforcement to be a drug trafficking organization (DTO). The funds were held in nine US banks, including Bank of America, Wells Fargo, and JPMorgan Chase, none of which have been charged with any wrongdoing. Additional moneys in three Peruvian bank accounts have also been frozen. The US Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York found that the family was using its gold mining interests as a front for cocaine trafficking:

For example, the Sanchez-Paredes DTO owns two mining companies, CIA Minera Aurifera Santa Rosa SA (“Comarsa”), and CIA Minera San Simon (“San Simon”), which purport to be in the business of mining gold, but are believed to be in the business of producing cocaine. In March 2007, Peruvian authorities seized approximately 125 tons of calcium oxide, a chemical used to both mine gold and produce cocaine, that were later identified as having been purchased by Comarsa and San Simon.

US investigators were alerted to the supposed scam through a detailed analysis of company records:

Comarsa’s mining records show that on numerous occasions, the amount of calcium oxide it used did not correspond with the amounts needed to process gold. This suggests that Comarsa is not actually involved in the business of mining gold, but rather in the business of producing cocaine. Other companies managed by the Sanchez-Paredes DTO appear to be nothing more than shell companies, created for the sole purpose of laundering drug money.

The Peruvian mineral interests at issue maintain their innocence. “It seems like there was a misunderstanding by the US attorney,” a Comarsa executive told Reuters. “We are complaining about this.” (Minyanville’s Wall Street, Oct. 11)