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 Treasury Lifts Sanctions on the Defunct Colombian Business Empire led by the Rodriguez Orejuela Family



Record Removal Demonstrates Successful Use of Targeted Sanctions to Dismantle the Cali Cartel Network 


WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of the Treasury today removed 308 individuals and entities from the Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons list (SDN List). This action — the largest single delisting in the history of Treasury’s sanctions programs — follows the financial collapse of Colombia’s Cali Cartel under the weight of economic sanctions.  The 78 individuals and 230 entities, primarily located in Colombia, were previously designated pursuant to Executive Order 12978 (1995), which targets narcotics traffickers based in Colombia.  All of these designees were part of the network led by Cali Cartel leaders Miguel and Gilberto Rodriguez Orejuela, who themselves remain on the SDN List and are currently incarcerated in the United States, serving 30-year sentences.


“As the largest removal action in the history of Treasury’s sanctions programs, today’s action demonstrates the successful use of targeted sanctions, which have destroyed the Rodriguez Orejuela brothers’ business empire,” said Director of the Office of Foreign Assets Control Adam J. Szubin.  “The sustained economic pressure on the Cali Cartel, at its height the most powerful drug trafficking organization in the world, stemmed from close coordination between multiple U.S. law enforcement agencies and our Colombian counterparts. We continue to support Colombian authorities as they prepare to finalize the forfeiture of the Rodriguez Orejuela brothers’ assets, including the drugstore chain Drogas La Rebaja.”


The primary goal for sanctions is behavioral change; the people and entities delisted today credibly showed that they have stopped engaging in sanctionable activities. Any designated party may petition OFAC for the removal of its name from the SDN List by following instructions set forth in regulations.  When considering whether to remove a person or entity from the SDN list, OFAC generally considers evidence that there has been change in the circumstances or activities since the initial designation. Including today’s action, OFAC has removed more than 800 persons from its SDN list since 2012 and more than 1,300 in the past seven years.


In 1995, brothers Miguel and Gilberto Rodriguez Orejuela were named as Specially Designated Narcotics Traffickers (SDNTs) by President Clinton for their leadership of Colombia’s powerful Cali drug cartel. Following multiple OFAC designations targeting this organization between 1995 and 2004, Colombian authorities launched an asset seizure operation against the Rodriguez Orejuela brothers’ organization, one of the Colombian government’s largest asset seizure operations ever.  The primary target was the SDNT entity Drogas La Rebaja, the top drugstore chain in Colombia.


In 2006, after their capture and extradition from Colombia, the Rodriguez Orejuela brothers pleaded guilty to drug trafficking charges in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida and money laundering charges in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. They were each sentenced to 30 years in U.S. prison and agreed to a $2.1 billion forfeiture judgment to be levied against their narcotics-related assets worldwide.


In connection with the Rodriguez Orejuela brothers’ guilty pleas, 28 of their family members who were previously designated as SDNTs entered into an agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Department of the Treasury in September 2006.  As part of this agreement, the family members were obligated to sever all ties with narcotics trafficking, to identify all property financed in whole or in part with narcotics proceeds, and to relinquish these assets to the Colombian government. This agreement also required these family members to identify all other assets that were owned or controlled by any family member who is a party to the agreement.  Many of these family members complied with the agreement and have been removed from the SDN List. Those who concealed assets in violation of the agreement were exposed and prosecuted in Colombia. Miguel and Gilberto Rodriguez Orejuela are the only remaining family members left on the SDN list.


The family members of the Rodriguez Orejuela brothers who are being removed today have been able to demonstrate their compliance with the 2006 agreement and no longer meet the criteria for which they were designated. Therefore, all remaining individuals and entities previously designated due to their ties to these family members are being removed from the SDN List.


In 2004, following the Colombian government’s seizure and subsequent oversight of Rodriguez Orejuela companies, OFAC issued a statement of licensing policy to issue on a case-by-case basis specific licenses that allow U.S. companies to engage in transactions with certain companies designated pursuant to Executive Order 12978, including Drogas La Rebaja. Following today’s removal action, this statement of licensing policy no longer applies.


For a timeline of OFAC actions targeting the business empire led by the Rodriguez Orejuela family, click here.



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