This week, law enforcement officials and regulators all over the world turn up the heat on financial criminals, as a Saudi Arabian money laundering gang gets serious jail time, a Venezuelan diplomatic envoy arrested in Cape Verde faces money laundering charges, and a New Zealand derivatives trading firm copped a big fine for anti-money laundering breaches.
Find out more on these stories below.
Saudi Arabian money laundering gang sentenced to twenty years in prison and fined £14.5million
The Riyadh Court of Appeal has sentenced the 24 members of a criminal gang which laundered SR17b (£3.3b) to terms of up to 20 years each. The court also fined the gang SR75m (£14.5m), and seized all funds discovered at the crime scene, an amount thought to be in the billions. Additionally, the Saudi citizens convicted received 20-year travel bans, while the expatriates are to be deported once they have served their sentences.
Authorities say the group laundered the funds as part of an organized criminal network, using commercial enterprises such as factories, companies, institutions, and medical facilities as a cover. The individual roles played by the gang members included money laundering, collecting and depositing illicit funds, and transferring money abroad.
The Saudi Oversight and Anti-Corruption Authority, Nazaha, has stepped up its campaign against corruption, bribery, and fraud this year. Recently, 65 Saudi citizens and expats, of whom, 48 were government employees, were arrested on related charges, while in March, two Saudis received 28-year prison sentences for money laundering offenses along with a heavy fine.
Saudi lawyer, Mr Majed Garoub, praised Nazaha, saying, “The crackdown on corruption is a reality and we’re witnessing its success every time we hear the good news of these arrests.”
Read more on this story in Zawya.
Cape Verde court rules that Venezuelan businessman will be extradited to US on money laundering charges
The Cape Verde Constitutional Court ruled earlier this week that Mr Alex Saab, a Venezuelan businessman with close ties to Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro, can be extradited to the USA to face money laundering charges. The charges stem from a 2019 indictment by US federal authorities, which alleged that Mr Saab was involved in a $350m (£253.5m) bribery racket involving a low-income housing project for the Venezuelan government.
Mr Saab was originally arrested by Cape Verde authorities in June 2020, when his private jet made a fuel stop in the small island country. He was en route to Iran on what Venezuelan authorities claim was a humanitarian mission. US authorities believe Mr Saab holds the key to understanding how President Maduro, his family and upper echelon officials skimmed millions of dollars in government contracts in hunger-stricken, yet oil-rich Venezuela.
The USA is determined to see Mr Saab brought to justice, with the Trump administration having sent a Navy warship to Cape Verde to surveil him in captivity last year. The Venezuelan government meanwhile objected vociferously to his arrest and detention, claiming that the US prosecution of Mr Saab is part of a US attempt at regime change in the South American country.
Lawyers for Mr Saab did not comment as they are still studying the court judgment.
Read more on this story in APNews.
New Zealand derivatives trading company cops big fine for anti-money laundering breaches
The New Zealand High Court has fined derivative traders CLSA Premium Limited (CLSAP NZ) NZ$770,000 (£394.9) for breaching anti-money laundering laws involving nearly NZ$50m (£25.6m) in suspicious transactions. CLSAP NZ admitted to failing to comply with the Anti-Money Laundering and Countering Financing of Terrorism (AML/CFT) Act earlier this year.
In a settlement agreement with the country’s economic watchdog, the Financial Markets Authority (FMA), CLSAP NZ admitted that between April 2015 and November 2018, the company failed to conduct enhanced customer due diligence (CDD) on 12 occasions and had not conducted CDD on one. Other failures admitted to included non-termination of existing business relationships where CDD could not be completed, nine instances of not reporting suspicious transactions, and inadequate record keeping in terms of legal requirements.
The case, which is the FMA’s first under the AML/CFT Act, involved almost NZ$50m in transactions among 10 CLSAP NZ customers. NZ$40.8m (£20.9m) of the amount centred on just two customers. Responding to the High Court decision, CLSAP NZ acknowledged the need for full compliance, adding that “the practice and the culture of the company have completely changed since the time of these breaches. We are very serious about complying with both the letter and the spirit of our obligations.”
Read more on this story in the NZ Herald.