Tuesday, December 1, 2020

Colombia fines Banco de Occidente for breaching anti-money laundering laws for the 12th time

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Colombia’s banking watchdog fined one of the banks of Colombia’s richest man for the 12th time for evading money laundering prevention regulations, according to local media.

The Superintendent for Finance’s imposed the $137,000 fine on the Banco de Occidente, one of the banks of Luis Carlos Sarmiento‘s banking conglomerate Grupo Aval.

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According to news website La Nueva Prensa, the fine is the 12th that’s been imposed on the bank since 2001.

The same bank and another Grupo Aval subsidiary, Banco de Bogota, are reportedly being investigated by the US Department of Justice and the Securities and Exchange Commission over a $10 million money-laundering operation.

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This laundering operation allegedly was carried out by the conglomerate’s international bank, BAC Credomatic, and would be related to the Odebrecht bribery scandal that implicates Sarmiento’s son and a third Grupo Aval subsidiary, Corficolombiana.

In Colombia, Grupo Aval owns five banks, the country’s largest pension fund and multiple stock broking companies.

Sarmiento initially gained most his capital through construction and took advantage of a privatization wave that was followed by a financial crisis in the 1990’s to buy up banks.

Since then, the construction mogul-turned-banker has arguably the most powerful man in Colombia who has bankrolled all presidential campaigns over the past 20 years.

Grupo Aval’s alleged involvement in the Odebrecht bribery scandal and Sarmiento’s construction companies’ involvement in several construction disasters have gradually affected the reputation of the mogul widely believed to be the financial patron of President Ivan Duque.

The president’s political patron, former President Alvaro Uribe, awarded Sarmiento the country’s highest honor, the Order of Boyaca, despite the mounting corruption allegations in 2004.

Uribe, an admitted former Medellin Cartel associate, is being investigated for his alleged complicity in three massacres and a homicide, witness tampering and election fraud.

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