On August 5, 2020, the US Department of Justice announced that Asisclo Valladares Urruela, the former Economics Minister of Guatemala, was charged with conspiracy to commit money laundering based on allegations that Valladares, with the help of co-conspirators, laundered almost $10 million in illicit funds. The DOJ reports that the laundered funds were derived from drug trafficking organizations and used by Valladares to bribe corrupt Guatemalan politicians.
According to the complaint, the conspiracy took place from 2014 to 2018, and involved the cooperation of a narcotics trafficker, a Guatemalan politician, and a corrupt Guatemalan bank employee, to accomplish the laundering scheme – a scheme that involved a sophisticated series of “mirror transactions” where the bank employee acted as a conduit between the dirty cash that originated with the drug trafficker and politician, and ended with clean cash to Valladares. The “mirror transactions” involved an exchange of funds between parties in different countries that left no paper trail, but required the creation of phony documents and fraudulent investment opportunities, and resulted in duffle bags and suitcases full of untraceable cash that were delivered directly to Guatemalan officials by Valladares or a close associate. Throughout the scheme, funds passed through US banks with the assistance of companies in Miami, with each conspirator receiving a percentage of the laundered funds, according to the complaint.
Valladares allegedly devised the scheme to keep up with an increasing demand for bribe money, that according to the complaint, required substantial sums of cash on weekly or bi-weekly basis, with demand so great at one point, that Valladares to commented to co-conspirators that politicians must think money grows on trees.
According to the complaint, Valladares faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison if convicted.