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WASHINGTON, D.C. — The United States hopes to build on recent successes in combating money laundering through enhanced cooperation with overseas partners and by focusing on "high impact" targets such as corrupt charities and cash smuggling operations, said Jimmy Gurulé, Treasury undersecretary.
Briefing reporters Thursday on the new National Money Laundering Strategy report released by the Treasury Department and the Department of Justice, Gurulé said the plan also calls for more coordination among U.S. law enforcement agencies.
He said the report places special emphasis on continued U.S. involvement in multinational bodies such as the Financial Action Task Force and on working with other countries to issue joint designations that identify, target and block the assets of terrorist-related individuals and entities. Officials are also pursuing agreements with U.S. allies that would allow for joint investigations of financial links to terrorists, Gurulé said.
The Treasury Department will also lead an interagency process to develop a set of internationally accepted standards or "best practices" for the alternative remittance industry.
According to the report, federal law enforcement agencies seized more than $1 billion in criminal assets in fiscal year 2001, with more than $300 million of that attributable to money laundering.
The new strategy is defined as "anti-terrorism." But administration officials have linked drug smuggling with terrorism because so many
|terrorist organizations gain funds
from such activity.
By extension, money laundering is part of drug smuggling, and, under administration policies, closely linked to terrorism.
For example, a recent boat shipment of AK-47 assault rifles and $1 million in amunition from Nicaragua ended up in the hands of the United Defense Force of Colombia. That group is classified as a terrorist organization, so anyone who financed the shipment, and the nature of that financing is unclear, would be classified as aiding and abetting terrorism under the U.S. definition. The money that did so likely came from laundered drug sources.
In Colombia itself the U.S. Customs Service, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and Colombian officials arrested 37 individuals in January 2002 as a result of Operation Wire Cutter, a 2 1/2 year undercover investigation of Colombian peso brokers and their money laundering organizations.
According to Gurulé, these individuals are believed to have laundered money for several Colombian narcotics cartels. The peso brokers contacted undercover Customs agents and directed them to pick-up currency in New York, Miami, Chicago, Los Angeles, and San Juan, Puerto Rico that had been generated from narcotics transactions.
The brokers subsequently directed the undercover agents to wire these proceeds to specified accounts in U.S. financial institutions that were often in the name of Colombian companies or banks that had a correspondent account with a U.S. bank, he said.
Laundered monies were subsequently withdrawn from banks in Colombia in Colombian pesos. Investigators seized over $8 million in cash, 400 kilos of cocaine, 100 kilos of marijuana, 6.5 kilos of heroin, nine firearms, and six vehicles, he said.
President Abel Pacheco said Thursday that he would set up a commission to tell him in 90 days how to attack poverty in Limón, Puntarenas and Guanacaste.
The announcement was the highlight of a Government Council meeting in the public park of Nicoya where the president and his ministers were taking part in the Annexation of Guanacaste holiday celebration.
Fighting poverty was a key element of the Pacheco presidential campaign and he stressed the issue in his inaugural address. Danilo Chaverri, minister of Planificación, will head the commission that will seek to rally private enterprise to the cause.
The three areas targeted by the president, as well as several communities in the northern zone, are unique and have their own problems. Pacheco was quick to note that the government had no funds of money to apply to this effort. The government also is facing a serious financial crisis with a large annual budget deficit that Pacheco is trying to trim.
So the president said that the commission’s role
|would be largely diagnostic. He repeated
his pledge to eliminate poverty during a visit to Santa Cruz.
Both towns were celebrating the 178th anniversary of Guanacaste joining Costa Rica.
The area specified by the president is a large one. Guanacaste includes much of northwest Costa Rica and the northern part of the Nicoya Peninsula. Puntarenas is a port city on the Gulf of Nicoya, but the province sprawls to encompass the southern part of the peninsula and far down the Pacific coast. Limón Province includes the city by the same name but also takes in the rugged Talamanca mountains and the entire eastern Carribean coast of the country.
The president also specified for special economic attention the Alajuela communities of San Carlos, Guatuso, Upala and Los Chiles and Sarapiquí in Heredia Province.
The areas specified by the president may be different economically but they have similar standards of living lower than the capital area as well as higher rates of unemployment, dependence on agriculture and a lower level of formal education.
to speak in signs
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff
Costa Rican police are taking a special language course. The subject is not English. Plenty of Fuerza Pública members speak that.
But 25 officers, at least one from every delegation in the metropolitan area, have started a sign language course that will last until Nov. 6, according to an announcement from the Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía, y Seguridad Pública.
Luis Hernández, director of the San José area, said he hopes this will be the first of a number of such classes.
Courses are being given by the Instituto de Atención Integral. In part, the police effort is dictated by a law that stipulates equal oportunities for persons with disabilities, said the annoucement.
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services
TORONTO, Canada — Pope John Paul has welcomed hundreds of thousands of young Catholic pilgrims here for this year's World Youth Day celebration.
The pontiff told the cheering pilgrims Thursday he traveled from afar to be with them. Earlier, the pope traveled through the massive crowd in his so-called Popemobile, surrounded by heavy security, in his first official appearance at the 10-day festival.
Pope John Paul arrived in Canada on Tuesday and spent two days of rest on Strawberry Island, north of Toronto. He plans to spend Friday there for another day of rest.
On Wednesday, he took a boat tour around the island retreat, and met there with disabled youngsters.
Church officials say that in spite of his frail health, the 82-year-old pontiff is eager to meet and pray with the world's Catholic youth.
The pope is expected to lead a prayer vigil Saturday evening and conclude his visit to Canada with a papal mass in Toronto on Sunday.
Young Catholics from more than 170 countries have registered for World Youth Day.
Pope John Paul's tour will also take him to Guatemala and Mexico, where he will preside at ceremonies canonizing new saints of the Roman Catholic Church.
The pope has been increasingly frail in recent years suffering from
arthritis and symptoms of Parkinson's disease, raising concern over the
effects the tiring trips could have on his health.
Big anti-drug sweep
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services
Colombian and U.S. authorities have announced the arrest of nearly 50 members of an international drug-trafficking ring smuggling millions of dollars worth of narcotics every month.
Leo Areguin, who directs the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration office in Colombia, Thursday announced the arrest of 49 people in four countries, including 12 in the United States. Other suspects were arrested in Colombia, Panama and Spain.
Officials say the drug ring has been smuggling about $8 million worth of cocaine and heroin into the United States and Europe monthly. They say the ring operated out of the northwestern Colombian city of Medellin.
The city gained notoriety as the base of operations for the drug cartel headed by the late Pablo Escobar.
Authorities say the joint U.S.-Colombian effort, dubbed Operation Castaway, disrupted the ring's smuggling operations and resulted in the seizure of some 13 kilograms of pure heroin. Among those arrested was Jairo Alberto Builes, whom U.S. authorities have sought for extradition on drug-trafficking charges.
Over the past two years, the United States has contributed more than $1 billion for Plan Colombia, a U.S.-backed initiative to help the country fight the illegal drug trade.
Stock market falls
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services
NEW YORK, N. Y. — The U.S. stock market fell Thursday after a wild trading day on Wall Street. The tech-heavy NASDAQ index dropped amid concerns over a slump in the semiconductor industry and questions about AOL Time Warner's accounting. The downturn follows Wednesday's historic rally on Wall Street.
It was a disappointing day for the U.S. stock market. One day after heavy trading drove blue chips to its biggest rally since after the 1987 crash, all three indexes fell, closing in the red on Thursday.
The Dow Jones industrial average closed at 8,186 points, a nearly 5 point drop of .06 percent. The broader Standard and Poor's 500 index lost nearly 5 points on Thursday, about .5 percent.
But the plunge was the most profound in the technology-heavy NASDAQ composite index, which lost fifty points, about 4 percent.
The technology sector took a hit after Taiwan Semiconductor said although second-quarter profits rose sharply, it expects weaker demand in the third quarter.
Chipmaker Intel, chip equipment maker Applied Material, Microsoft and Cisco Systems all fell on the news Thursday.
Although many analysts have predicted that the two-week slide could indicate that the market had bottomed out, a series of corporate scandals continue to haunt Wall Street, delaying a rebound.
Economist Bruce Steinberg of the investment firm Merrill Lynch says that a loss of faith by investors undermines the continued strength of the U.S. economy.
Despite a rally on Wednesday, investors unloaded shares of Citigroup
and J.P. Morgan Chase on Thursday. The two financial powerhouses are being
probed by the U.S. Congress for their dealings with the now bankrupt energy
|Peru’s Fujimori regime
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services
LIMA, Peru — The Health Ministry says more than 200,000 people in rural Peru were pressured into being sterilized by the government of former President Alberto Fujimori.
An official report released by the Health Ministry shows that it oversaw the compulsory family planning program between 1996 and 2000. Health Minister Fernando Carbone says the government gave out misleading information and threatened to fine men and women who had more children.
The Health Ministry says poor indigenous people were the main targets of the program. Figures show surgeons performed more than 215,000 female sterilizations and 16,000 vasectomies. Officials say the procedures were often performed under unsafe medical conditions. Several women are believed to have died after the operations. The revelations have led to calls for genocide charges to be filed against Fujimori, who fled to Japan in 2000 and is wanted by Peruvian authorities on charges of treason.
The report says the program's focus on impoverished Andean villagers has created severe demographic problems in the region. It says there is concern that a shortage of young people could severely threaten the future of traditional village life.
Meanwhile, in Japan, Fujimori has found love and plans to marry a Japanese hotel executive. Fujimori, who fled Peru in disgrace two years ago, met the woman, an unnamed executive, in March through a mutual friend.
The story was reported in the popular weekly Shukan Shincho magazine.
It featured pictures of the couple eating at an expensive restaurant and visiting Tokyo's controversial Yasukuni Shrine, where Japan's war dead, including World War II war criminals, are enshrined.
Fujimori divorced his first wife a few years ago and has had several relationships since that time.
Peru has sought Fujimori's extradition on charges of crimes against
humanity, embezzlement and torture. However, Tokyo has repeatedly refused
to send him back to Peru. He was given Japanese nationality and the Japanese
government has said it could not extradite a national by law.
Two agencies probe
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services
BUENOS AIRES, Argentina — The Justice Department and the country's taxing authority have begun investigating former president Carlos Menem, after he admitted he has a Swiss bank account. The new scandal follows allegations earlier this week that Menem accepted a $10 million bribe.
The Argentine government's Office of Anticorruption and the General Tax Directorate, Argentina's tax collection agency, are investigating Menem's bank account in Switzerland.
Wednesday, Menem admitted that he has the account, and that he has kept it secret since 1986.
If the investigations lead to charges and Mr. Menem is found guilty of what is termed, "malicious omission," because he previously denied having the account, he could be fined as much as $100,000 and sentenced to up to two years in prison.
Menem also would be banned from holding public office, which would sink his current bid for another term as president. He is considered one of the leading presidential candidates. The general election is scheduled for March 2003.
Menem said he opened the Swiss account with $200,000, a reparation he received from the government, for time spent in jail during Argentina's military dictatorship. The account has earned interest over time and is now worth $650,000.
Mr. Menem's admission follows a front-page story in The New York Times newspaper, which quoted testimony from a former Iranian intelligence officer. The former president was said to have accepted a bribe to impede the probe into the 1994 terror attack against Argentina's largest Jewish community center.
The ex-spy was quoting as telling Argentine authorities that Iran planned and carried out the bombing and then deposited $10 million in Mr. Menem's Swiss account as a payoff, so he would block the investigation.
Menem has denied the story, saying his political opponents are trying
to sabotage his presidential bid.
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