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 Treasury Targets FARC Money Exchange House


5/7/2008

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Washington - The U.S. Department of the Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) today designated a Colombian money exchange house for acting on behalf of and materially assisting the narcotics trafficking activities of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, a narco-terrorist group also known as the FARC. This is OFAC's fourth action against the FARC in the past six months.

The U.S. Department of the Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) today designated a Colombian money exchange house for acting on behalf of and materially assisting the narcotics trafficking activities of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, a narco-terrorist group also known as the FARC. This is OFAC's fourth action against the FARC in the past six months.

"Today's action targets the FARC's drug trafficking and terror activities by undermining its financial network," said OFAC Director Adam J. Szubin. "This deals another blow to the FARC's ability to fund its operations by laundering criminal proceeds through the international financial system."

Today's designation targets Mercurio Internacional S.A., a Colombian money exchange house headquartered in Bogota, Colombia, with several branches throughout Colombia. The FARC used this Colombian money exchange house--or " casa de cambio" as they are commonly known in Colombia--to launder narcotics proceeds from its Eastern Bloc and, more specifically, the 27th Front. The FARC sells its illicit foreign currency to domestic money exchange businesses or profesionales del cambio. These profesionales del cambio then sell the foreign currency to casas de cambio that, like a bank, can export the foreign currency from Colombia.

Mercurio Internacional accepted foreign currency from the FARC via a number of profesionales del cambio. The FARC derived this foreign currency from drug sales. Mercurio Internacional would then convert the foreign currency back into pesos for the FARC to use in Colombia to fund its activities. For example, Cambios El Trebol, a professional del cambio that was designated by OFAC on April 22, 2008, is one customer of Mercurio Internacional that would sell the FARC's illicit foreign currency to Mercurio Internacional in return for Colombian pesos.

accepted foreign currency from the FARC via a number of The FARC derived this foreign currency from drug sales. would then convert the foreign currency back into pesos for the FARC to use in Colombia to fund its activities. For example, , a that was designated by OFAC on April 22, 2008, is one customer of that would sell the FARC's illicit foreign currency to in return for Colombian pesos.

The Eastern Bloc is the strongest military faction of the FARC and uses murder, extortion, kidnapping, and drug trafficking to further the financial and political goals of the FARC. Luis Eduardo Lopez Mendez (alias "Efren Arboleda") leads the 27th Front and ultimately reports to FARC Secretariat Member Victor Julio Suarez Rojas (alias "Mono Jojoy"). Suarez Rojas is the FARC's Chief of Military Operations and formerly served as the commander of the Eastern Bloc. Victor Julio Suarez Rojas and Luis Eduardo Lopez Mendez were designated by OFAC in February 2004 and November 2007, respectively.

On May 29, 2003, President George W. Bush identified the FARC as a significant foreign narcotics trafficker pursuant to the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act. Previously, in 2001, OFAC designated the FARC as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist pursuant to Executive Order 13224, and in 1997 the FARC was designated as a Foreign Terrorist Organization by the Secretary of State.

Today's action continues ongoing efforts under the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act to apply financial measures against significant foreign narcotics traffickers worldwide. In addition to the 68 drug kingpins that have been designated by the President, 393 businesses and individuals have been designated pursuant to the Kingpin Act since June 2000. Today's designation would not have been possible without support from the Drug Enforcement Administration.

Today's action freezes any assets Mercurio Internacional may have under U.S. jurisdiction and prohibits U.S. persons from conducting financial or commercial transactions with this entity. Penalties for violations of the Kingpin Act range from civil penalties of up to $1,075,000 per violation to more severe criminal penalties. Criminal penalties for corporate officers may include up to 30 years in prison and fines of up to $5,000,000. Criminal fines for corporations may reach $10,000,000. Other individuals face up to 10 years in prison for criminal violations of the Kingpin Act and fines pursuant to Title 18 of the United States Code.

REPORTS

For a complete list of the individuals and entities designated today, please visit:
http://www.treasury.gov/offices/enforcement/ofac/actions/index.shtml

To view previous OFAC actions directed against the FARC, please visit:

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