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Popular Spanish folk singer Isabel Pantoja has begun serving a two-year sentence for money laundering after her court appeals were rejected.

Pantoja, 58, entered the Alcala de Guadaira jail in the southern province of Seville early Friday.

The singer, who was also fined 1.2 million euros ($1.5 million) following the 2012 trial, was found guilty of laundering money for Julian Munoz, a former boyfriend and one-time mayor of the resort city of Marbella.

Pantoja is a fixture in Spain’s gossip magazines and TV shows. She was married to the famous bullfighter Francisco “Paquirri” Rivera, who died in the bullring in 1984.

Munoz, who was sentenced to seven years, ran a scheme of providing building permits in Marbella in return for bribes.



Sergio Moro

Sergio Moro–finance.html#cfl3Ad9


In a country where big court cases often drag on for a decade or more and abruptly fall apart on technicalities, the man leading a bribery probe at Brazil’s state-run oil firm Petrobras is described by allies and even rivals as perfectly suited to the task.

Meticulous, formal and reserved, federal judge Sergio Moro has successfully presided over high-profile money laundering cases for 11 years, and wrote a book on the subject after studying in the United States.

Moro, 42, is now pushing forward a case that has already seen dozens of arrests of major construction and oil executives, shaken Brazil’s economy and become the biggest crisis to date for leftist President Dilma Rousseff, who was chairwoman of Petrobras’ board from 2003 to 2010.

The probe will deepen further in coming months, prosecutors working on the case told Reuters, and could ultimately involve some of Brazil’s banks, other companies, and politicians including some in Rousseff’s Workers’ Party.

Petroleo Brasileiro SA , as it is formally known, is accused of systematically overpaying for assets and contracts.

Prosecutors say the excess money, which some reports have estimated at about $8 billion, was diverted to political parties. Petrobras has neither confirmed nor denied the allegations but has started an internal investigation.

With the fortunes of a $68 billion company and powerful politicians and executives potentially in the balance, dozens of lawyers are waiting to pounce on Moro if he makes the slightest mistake.

But Moro, a voracious reader who occasionally rides his bicycle to work, has taken courses at Harvard Law School and teaches a criminal law class on Fridays, hasn’t given them much to work with.

“He makes the lawyer’s job difficult here,” conceded Antonio Figueiredo Basto, who represents one of the main defendants in the case. He called Moro “correct, rigorous and tough” after a deposition this week in Curitiba, the southeastern city where the judge is based.


Under Brazil’s complex legal system, judges often take a more active role in advancing cases than in the United States and other countries.

In the Petrobras scandal, federal police and prosecutors from the public ministry, an independent judicial body, gather evidence while Moro makes key decisions about whom to arrest and how to guide witness testimony.

He has drawn some criticism, especially from Workers’ Party officials who complain that leaked details of witness testimony during this year’s presidential election campaign seemed timed to damage Rousseff, who won re-election anyway. Moro has denied making any improper leaks.

When asked by Reuters about the Petrobras probe, known here as “Operation Car Wash,” Moro showed trademark reserve in replying by email that he “unfortunately” could not comment on a case in his court. “I hope you understand,” he added.

His previous investigations include one he oversaw from 2003 to 2007 that is still Brazil’s biggest money laundering case. It involved $28 billion in funds illicitly transferred abroad from several Brazilian banks, including the now defunct Parana state bank Banestado, and resulted in 97 convictions.

The experience led Moro “to be even more diligent, more careful” so that his work holds up in higher courts, said Anderson Furlan, a fellow judge who went to college with Moro and has known him for years.


In the Petrobras case, Moro has won praise for two important tactical decisions.

The first, somewhat rare in Brazil, was to approve immunity or reduced sentences to witnesses who collaborate.

A promise of reduced sentences led Alberto Youssef, a money-changer who allegedly shuttled funds around as part of the Petrobras scheme, and former Petrobras senior executive Paulo Roberto Costa to name other individuals and companies involved.

Their testimony has led to major breakthroughs, including the arrest last week of another Petrobras executive, and the leaders of some of Brazil’s top construction firms.

Moro’s second key tactical move was to go after private-sector executives and money men first, accumulating evidence before pursuing any politicians involved.

That’s due to an unusual legal provision in Brazil, which says that top politicians, including members of Congress, can only be judged by the Supreme Court.

The risk is that, if and when politicians are formally named in the probe, Moro could lose control of the case.

As a result, Moro has directed Youssef, Costa and other witnesses not to name politicians for now in their depositions, according to Furlan and court aides.

Nonetheless, prosecutors say they will pursue the money trail in the case, no matter who is involved.

“This scheme is not restricted to Petrobras,” said Carlos Fernando dos Santos Lima, one of six main prosecutors from the public ministry on the case, told Reuters.

He said prosecutors are in talks with some of Brazil’s largest banks about whether they were involved in any of the money laundering. He declined to confirm who they were, and said it was too early to know if they might face prosecution.

Lima also said public prosecutors have been in contact with the U.S. Department of Justice for months and provided information about Petrobras to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

Those bodies have not yet confirmed their roles or that they are investigating Petrobras.

In response to media reports that the Supreme Court has the names of 70 politicians allegedly involved, Lima said “it’s less than that” but declined to elaborate.

Federal police expect the investigations in Curitiba to last at least two years, one of Moro’s assistants said.

The Supreme Court moved to release some of the prisoners in May but Moro warned Costa could try to flee the country and they are back in custody.

His supporters say Moro’s investigation could not only clean up Petrobras but also Brazil’s reputation at home and abroad.

“We hope the money will be returned to public coffers for all the honest Brazilians who pray for justice in a country known around the world as the land of impunity,” said Furlan, the local judge.





While the G20 summit in Australia made headlines over global warming, economic growth and terrorism, much less attention was paid to the giant spectre of global corruption.

That is too bad as this is a problem that is arguably more dangerous to humanity than even terrorism because it siphons off an estimated $1 trillion from developing countries annually through bribery, money laundering, tax evasion, extortion and other financial crimes.

Recent World Bank estimates suggest that much of the world’s direct aid to the poorest countries ends up stolen, perhaps as much as $40 billion in recent years.

And it has been estimated that up to 3.6 million of the world’s poorest die annually from inadequate health care and living conditions directly because corruption has leached away development aid of all kinds.

At its most extreme, corruption causes people to lose faith in government, states to fail and violence to erupt in the form of organized crime and terrorist movements.

Only slightly less malign, it’s the dirty grease that keeps many repressive and violent dictators in lavish power.

No country is untouched by corruption, but it is “public enemy No. 1″ in the developing world, according to World Bank President Jim Yong Kim, who has to fight to keep his bank’s $30 billion a year in development aid getting to its proper destination.

“Every dollar that a corrupt official or a corrupt business person puts in their pockets is a dollar stolen from a pregnant woman who needs health care, or from a girl or boy who deserves an education, or from communities that need water, roads and schools.” Kim says, in calling on the world’s economic powers to take steps to end this scourge.

Baby steps

Which brings us back to the G20 leaders and the pessimism that surrounds its anti-corruption talk, perhaps because it is made up of some of the world’s most bribe-infected and non-transparent economies, including those of China ,Russia, India and Brazil being among the most often mentioned.

At past conferences, G20 leaders have pledged to act robustly against this scourge, but most action has involved baby steps and future promises.

This time, the G20 nations at least agreed to slowly — over three years — strive to expose those shell companies and trusts that hide billions from tax collection while illicit money is laundered.

Spanish Civil Guard, members of a special anti-corruption unit, lead a suspect to court in Seville in November 2014. Law enforcement officers searched local government offices in 13 Spanish provinces on Tuesday as part of a crackdown on politicians and officials. (Reuters)

Critics have long pooh-poohed the idea of leading economic organizations like the G20 or International Monetary Fund trying to tackle questionable activities by its own people.

But some anti-corruption activists sense a change is in the air. The rise of terrorist mega-financing, as seen in the case of ISIS and al-Qaeda, has captured the international agenda.

“The incentive for G20 nations to make progress lies in their own back yards,” writes David McNair, the director of transparency at the ONE Campaign against corruption, noting that watchdogs “have highlighted numerous examples of anonymous firms facilitating corruption, enabling the free flow of terrorist financing and sanctions breaking.”

Canada stepping up

So far, it’s only a handful of the world’s 41 or so developed nations that have started prosecuting companies and executives that bribe foreign officials or facilitate corrupt practices.

But these are highly influential players like the U.K., France, Canada, Germany and Australia who have lined up alongside the very tough U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which is rattling boardrooms around the world.

Over the past two years, Canada has enacted amendments to former anti-bribery laws that will permit the prosecution of Canadian companies and citizens on bribery charges, regardless of where the corrupt acts take place.

Limits have also been taken off fines and the potential prison terms have been raised to an eye catching 14 years.

Under a controversial new “integrity framework” any company can be barred from selling products or services to Canada for a full decade if they or their foreign subsidiaries are deemed to have bribed or facilitated business anywhere abroad.

A powerful association of business groups here has recently lobbied the federal government to pull back on these new rules, saying the penalties are far too stringent.

The commission under Justice France Charbonneau into allegations of corruption in the province’s construction industry has opened a window on graft at the municipal level. (Graham Hughes / Canadian Press)

But Ottawa has reason to get tough — of 250 global companies blacklisted by the World Bank under its new fraud and corruption policy, 117 are from Canada, albeit many are affiliates of troubled SNC-Lavalin.

The Quebec construction scandals have also harmed our image overseas.

‘Name and shame’

It’s believed that 35 Canadian companies are currently under RCMP investigation for bribery abroad, and in January 2013 the highest fine to date, $10 million, was levied against Grittiths Energy for paying a $2 million bribe to win land concessions in Chad.

In countries where tough laws are introduced, companies suddenly have every incentive to demand international standards of transparency to make the playing field equal. And so the reform pressure builds.

The other pressure point flows from social media and the unprecedented exposure of corruption it facilitates.

For the first time, people in developing countries are getting solid information about graft, which explains much of the populist anger these days in nations from Ukraine, Hungary, Mexico and Brazil to scores of countries in Africa where public demonstrations denouncing graft are becoming more common.

Adding to this, anti-corruption groups like Transparency International are launching new grassroots campaigns to “name and shame” the excessive spending of ruling families and the like.

It is a message clearly meant to mobilize youth fury against corruption the same way a similar energy was harnessed to fight global poverty a decade ago.

Many despair because this problem seems limitless. But the powerful idea is spreading that the world simply cannot go on like this, rotting at the core.





Juan Pablo Upegui Gallego señaló que iniciaron las averiguaciones y análisis por parte de los abogados del equipo.

El socio mayoritario del equipo Envigado Fútbol Club, Juan Pablo Upegui Gallego, afirmó que no ha sido notificado sobre la inclusión de él y el equipo deportivo en la denominada Lista Clinton por parte del Gobierno estadounidense.

“La verdad, sorprendidos. Hoy nos dimos apenas cuenta por las noticias. No hemos recibido ninguna notificación de parte de quien le corresponda. Estamos es apenas como aterrizando lo que está sucediendo”, aseguró el señor Upegui Gallego.

Dijo el directivo del club de fútbol que tanto él como su madre Margarita Gallego no han tenido dificultades con la justicia norteamericana y que por ello, están dispuestos a dar las explicaciones necesarias.

“Todo el mundo conoce la labor de Envigado la de todos los jugadores. Estas acusaciones van en contra de nuestra labor y estamos dispuestos a aclarar y abrir las puertas a todas las personas que correspondan”, precisó.

El accionista Upegui Gallego señaló que iniciaron las averiguaciones y análisis por parte de los abogados del equipo para tomar medidas respecto a la inclusión en la Lista Clinton.

Manifestó su tristeza al indicar que la afectación mayor es a la labor social del Envogado F. C. Esto, toda vez que la escuela de formación cuenta con más de 5.000 niños en todo el país.



Juan Pablo Upegui Gallego

Juan Pablo Upegui Gallego–sow.html


Colombian soccer club Envigado helped launder money for a drug trafficking group, the U.S. Treasury Department said on Wednesday, blacklisting the team under the anti-crime Kingpin Act.

The owner of Envigado Futbol Club allowed the Oficina de Envigado crime gang to use its balance sheet to hide profits from drug trafficking, extortion and murder-for-hire, the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) said in a statement. The statement did not say when the alleged money-laundering occurred.

The Kingpin Act allows the United States to freeze the assets of companies and individuals thought to be involved with money laundering and prohibits U.S. citizens from engaging in transactions with them. The Oficina de Envigado was placed on the list in June.

The team, based near the central city of Medellin and part of Colombia’s top league, is well-known for training rising stars.

Wunderkind striker James Rodriguez, who made waves at this year’s World Cup and now plays for Real Madrid, began his professional career there.

Also designated on Wednesday for connections to the crime gang were 10 Colombian citizens, including the team’s owner.

“The diversity of those designated today – targeting a variety of companies and influential cartel members, including the majority owners of a professional soccer team – will strike at the financial core of this violent criminal network,” the director of OFAC, Adam J. Szubin, said.

The team had no immediate comment, but was preparing a statement, spokesman Sebastian Medina told Reuters.

The club is not the first Colombian team designated under the Kingpin Act. America de Cali was placed on the list in 1999 because of financial connections to the Cali cartel, but it was removed last year




Treasury Designates the Financial Core and Support Network of Colombian Criminal Group La Oficina de Envigado



Action Designates 10 Individuals and 14 Entities, Including the Majority Owners of a Professional Soccer Team


WASHINGTON - The U.S. Department of the Treasury today designated 10 Colombian nationals and 14 entities, primarily located in the cities of Envigado and Medellín, Colombia pursuant to the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act (Kingpin Act).  These individuals and entities were designated today for their active role in supporting the narcotics trafficking, money laundering, and other illicit activities of the Kingpin-designated criminal group La Oficina de Envigado (La Oficina).  As a result of today’s action all assets of those designated that are based in the United States or are in the control of U.S. persons are frozen, and U.S. persons are generally prohibited from engaging in transactions with them.


“La Oficina has played a significant role in large-scale drug trafficking and money laundering activities, and this action builds on our continued efforts to target the cartel from all angles,” said Adam J. Szubin, Director of the Office of Foreign Assets Control.  “The diversity of those designated today – targeting a variety of companies and influential cartel members, including the majority owners of a professional soccer team – will strike at the financial core of this violent criminal network and impede its efforts to operate in the legitimate financial system.”


Among those designated today are four individuals believed to be directly involved in violence, extortion, and narcotics trafficking on behalf of La Oficina:  Carlos Arturo Arredondo Ortiz (a.k.a. “Mateo”), a key underboss whose involvement with La Oficina dates to the 1980s; Félix Alberto Isaza Sánchez (a.k.a. “Beto”), one of La Oficina’s most violent drug traffickers, who has been incarcerated since 2012 and continues to operate from prison in Colombia; Nelson Darío Isaza Sánchez, the brother of “Beto” and a high-ranking officer in Envigado’s Transit Police; and Edward García Arboleda (a.k.a. “Orion”), a former police officer with longstanding involvement in extortion and debt collection for La Oficina.  In addition to these individuals, the Treasury Department named Gildardo de Jesús Bedoya López, a political operative and money launderer for La Oficina, as well as the biofuels company that he partially owns, named Colombiana de Biocombustibles S.A. (COLBIO).


Also designated today are Envigado Futbol Club S.A (a.k.a. Envigado F.C., a Colombian professional soccer team) and the team’s owner, Juan Pablo Upegui Gallego.  Upegui Gallego is a key associate within La Oficina and has used his position as the team’s owner to put its finances at the service of La Oficina for many years.  Other entities targeted include an event promotion company, Enfarrados Company, also partially owned by Upegui Gallego, and a beauty salon and spa, Carytes Encanto y Belleza, owned by Adriana María Ruiz Madrida financial manager for La Oficina who was also designated today.


Treasury designated La Oficina as a Specially Designated Narcotics Trafficker pursuant to the Kingpin Act on June 26, 2014.  Aside from its direct involvement in international narcotics trafficking, La Oficina also provides organized criminal groups in Colombia with violent enforcement services, including drug debt collection, extortion, and murder-for-hire.  On July 1, 2014, the Treasury Department designated 12 individuals and 14 entities for their involvement in laundering drug money on behalf of La Oficina.  On September 16, 2014, the Treasury Department designated eight “enforcers” for the criminal group, all of whom were known for their use of brutal violence on behalf of La Oficina.


Today’s designation was taken in close coordination with the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), with support from the U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s National Targeting Center.


“Today’s Treasury sanctions expose the hidden transnational organized crime reach of La Oficina de Envigado while highlighting DEA’s evolving investigative commitment to target the violence, extortion, and predatory components of the illicit drug trade which have for so long negatively impacted the welfare of all of Colombia’s citizens,” said DEA Andean Regional Director Jay Bergman.


Since June 2000 more than 1,700 individuals and entities have been named pursuant to the Kingpin Act for their role in international narcotics trafficking.  Penalties for violations of the Kingpin Act range from civil penalties of up to $1.075 million per violation to more severe criminal penalties.  Criminal penalties for corporate officers may include up to 30 years in prison and fines up to $5 million. Criminal fines for corporations may reach $10 million.  Other individuals could face up to 10 years in prison and fines pursuant to Title 18 of the United States Code for criminal violations of the Kingpin Act.


To see a chart relating to today’s action, click here.

For a complete listing of designations pursuant to the Kingpin Act, click here.