Major Colombian gold exporter accused of fraud and conspiracy

World Today

Colombia has busted what may be the biggest money-laundering operation in the history of a nation notorious for it. Officials have charged John Uber Hernandez, the CEO of Goldex, the country’s second-largest gold exporter of money laundering, fraud, forgery, and conspiracy. Hernandez denies any wrongdoing. CCTV America’s Michelle Begue reported this story from Bogota, Colombia.

Major Colombian gold exporter accused of fraud and conspiracy

Major Colombian gold exporter accused of fraud and conspiracy

Colombia has busted up what may be the biggest money-laundering operation in the history of a nation notorious for it. Colombian drug cartels and money-laundering go together like popcorn and the movies, but this case involved around a billion dollars in illegal gold shipments. The man Colombians call the “Czar of Gold” has pleaded not guilty to the charges. CCTV’s Michelle Begue reported from Bogot.

Hernandez is known as the “Czar of Gold” and has plead not guilty to the charges of running one of the largest money-laundering schemes ever.

“We realized this was a whole operation that had the objective of bringing in illegal gold, legalizing it, injecting it into the Colombian economy in order to legally export it an international level,” Colombia’s deputy attorney general Jorge Fernando Perdomo said.

The Attorney General’s office said Goldex laundered nearly $1 billion through deals with illegal gold miners. According to officials, many of the 6,000 gold providers of Goldex did not even exist, at times, using fake identities or even the names of people who were dead or homeless.

During hearings in Medellin, defense attorneys argued that it is difficult to document the sale of gold by informal miners and small-time prospectors.

The case has brought national attention to the issue of illegal gold mining in Colombia. The last mining census by the Ministry of Mines and Energy of Colombia in 2011, found that more than 60 percent of mining activity in the country was illegal.

The Attorney General’s office said they are continuing to investigate other companies involved in this type of money laundering.

“What we have here is a lack of control from the government over huge and well-known companies involved in international commerce, that are used to legalize illegal mining, Perdomo said.

Experts said it’s hard to know the true extent of illegal mining, in part, due to corruption.

“Anything that comes to public light on mining shows clear evidence of high levels of corruption, which was even been denounced by the first Energy and Mining Minister of President Santos,” natural resources specialist Guillermo Rudas said.

According to Colombia’s financial intelligence unit, cocaine traffickers, Marxist guerrillas, and other criminal groups launder about $10 billion a year — an amount equal to 3 percent of Colombia’s total economic output.