Eighty-five people and the world's seventh largest financial institution have been indicted in a global money-laundering ring that handled cash for Colombia's cocaine barons, authorities said Tuesday.
The case is the largest money-laundering operation in U.S. history, and several suspects were arrested as they showed up for a phony bachelor party they had been invited to by undercover agents.According to indictments unsealed Tuesday, the operation extended to several U.S. cities and at least seven foreign countries.
Named in the indictments after a two-year investigation was Bank of Credit and Commerce International and Bank of Credit and Commerce International Ltd., wholly owned subsidiaries of BCCI Holdings, a Luxembourg trust. BCCI laundered $14 million in illegal drug proceeds, said U.S. Customs chief William von Raab.
Among the suspects are nine BCCI officials and Gonzalo Mora Jr., 33, who officials indentified as a major Colombian cocaine trafficker. He is in custody in Tampa, official said.
In addition to the 34 defendants indicted in Tampa, the investigation resulted in 16 indictments in New York, 16 in Chicago, 12 in Detroit, four in Houston, three in Philadelphia, and the issuance of two warrants in London, one in Paris, and one each in Miami and Los Angeles.
The undercover agents helped launder more than $32 million, but von Raab said the figure laundered by those involved in the scheme was much higher.
Forty people are in custody nationwide.
Officials said the operation involved all Colombian cocaine operations, not just one cartel.
"Colombian cocaine kingpins, more and more, are organized into one cartel," said von Raab said. "They work with each other (but) they cannot operate without the cooperation of international financial institutions."