No subprime crisis for drug dealers

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Police bust cocaine baron's vast real estate network worth EUR 9 million.

10 April 2008

MADRID - In a bid to fight drug trafficking, the police have opened up a new front which focuses on criminals' efforts to launder their ill-gotten gains through the real estate sector.

It is the Udyco Central (Anti-Drug and Organised Crime) police unit which looks for what is often the Achilles heel of drug traffickers: their phantom business dealings in the property sector.

Udyco's efforts have already paid off, enabling it to recover over EUR 83 million in laundered funds. One of its most recent operations reveals the modus operandi of many of these gangs.

Micharet was just one of what are believed to be thousands of real estate front companies operating in Spain. Luis Moreno Jimena, who has been serving a prison sentence since October for cocaine trafficking, financed the purchase of a number of homes without ever owning them on paper.

Investigations into this scam were boosted when police uncovered at an industrial yard in Arganda del Rey, Madrid, not only 254 kilograms of cocaine concealed inside cranes and trailers, but a list of houses, names of property owners and pictures of a home - all linked to Jimena.

The house of the imprisoned cocaine dealer has 420 square metres of living space and is located on a 1,000-square-metre lot with a price tag of EUR 1 million.

Investigations showed that Jimena owned, with the help of a vast network of people, a number of homes totalling 70,000 square meters and worth a total of EUR 9 million. Jimena purchased the real estate in cash, with no legal documents except a contract.

When the sellers discovered that Jimena was a cocaine dealer and that they could face prison sentences, they were more than happy to cooperate with the police.

[El Pais / Francisco Mercado / Expatica]

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