Federal Grand Jury Indicts 39 in InternationalMoney Laundering Scheme
According to an FBI press release, four separatemoney laundering schemes involving 46 defendantsin the United States, Canada, Belgium, and Spainwere broken up this month as a result of OperationCash-Out. The four-year undercover operation in-volved local and state law enforcement agenciesworking in tandem with foreign agencies and led tothe indictment of 39 individuals.Three of the four disrupted schemes eschewed tradi-tional financial networks in favor of a monetary ex-change system known as hawala. The United Statesdistrict attorney responsible for the case described thehawala system as a crude form of Western Union.Though not technically illegal, the hawala system ismore informal than traditional networks and thus isharder for authorities to track and regulate. This inturn opens the door for unlicensed and unreported il-licit transactions.For the most part, witnesses cooperating with law en-forcement agents told the defendants that the moneythey were laundering came from drug trafficking andcigarette smuggling. One of the defendants in thecase, however, Saifullah Ranjha, was told he waslaundering money for al Qaeda. All told, the govern-ment sought the ownership of two convenience storesand $5,148,000 in criminal forfeitures from the de-fendants.
Collective Security Treaty Organization LaunchesDrug Interdiction Operation
Operation Kanal-2007, which involved 91,000 lawenforcement officers hailing from seven nations of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO),has led to the seizure of over 10 metric tons of narcot-ics, according to the Russian anti-drug agency. In ad-dition to narcotics, CSTO operatives seized 223 met-ric tons of drug-making chemicals and raw materials,687 firearms, 15,000 rounds of ammunition, and morethan $1.7 million dollars worth of cash and valuables.During the weeklong blitz, extra personnel were sta-tioned along major transportation hubs such as air-ports, border crossings, and railroad stations. In addi-tion to CSTO law enforcement officers, observersfrom Azerbaijan, the United States, China, Latvia,Lithuania, Mongolia, Poland, Ukraine, and Finlandtook part in the operation.States of the CSTO have faced an ever-increasing in-flux of narcotics since Afghanistan surpassed theGolden Triangle in opium production. Thirty yearsago, the Golden Triangle produced more than 70 per-cent of the opium sold worldwide. This figure is nowdown to 5 percent due to economic pressure fromChina, among other factors. This precipitous declinecreated a worldwide scarcity of supply, which incen-tivized Afghan poppy farmers to increase production.With fertile soil that yields on average four timesmore opium than crops grown in the Golden Triangle,Afghanistan now produces about 92 percent of theworld’s opium. This explosive growth has thrustTurkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan into thefront line of the CSTO’s war on drugs, necessitatinginnovative anti-drug initiatives such as the Kanal op-eration to stem the flow of Afghan heroin.
Cocaine Kingpin Arrested in Columbia
On September 10, an elite Columbian unit arrestedcocaine kingpin Diego Montoya, a senior leader inthe brutal Norte del Valle cartel. Montoya, arrested inthe rural town of Zarzal, was among the FBI’s top 10most wanted fugitives and will be turned over to thebureau following questioning by Columbian authori-ties. During Montoya’s tenure, authorities estimatethat the Norte del Valle cartel killed about 1,500 peo-ple and trafficked hundreds of tons of cocaine to theUnited States and Europe. Montoya was one of Co-lumbia’s largest traffickers, and his arrest will likelycause a temporary disruption to Columbia’s cocainetrade as competitors vie to fill the vacuum left by hisdeparture.The success of the large-scale operation that led toMontoya’s arrest was credited, in part, to a purge of high-ranking officers in the armed forces. Many of the purged officers, especially those in the army, weresuspected of colluding with Montoya’s cartel. His in-filtration of the armed forces provided Montoya with