U.S. Seizes Fortune in Drug Money

U.S. Seizes Fortune in Drug Money
Posted by FoM on December 19, 1998 at 08:12:30 PT
We'll use their money against them?
Miami—The United States has seized $276 million in illicit drug spoils from a Colombian trafficking family and its cronies, the largest seizures of narcotics cash in history, U.S. authorities said today.
Sixty-five percent of the seizures, or about $180 million, was stashed in Swiss bank accounts by Colombian drug lord Julio Nasser David and his wife, Sheila Arana de Nasser. It will be split 50-50 with the government of Switzerland, U.S. officials said.The seizures resulted from investigations into Nasser's Colombian North Coast Cartel, which smuggled tons of marijuana and cocaine into the United States in the late 1970s and early 1980s, officials said."I'm happy to say we pretty much put a dent in that organization," Michael Kane, associate special agent in charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration's Miami office, said at a news conference.Miami U.S. Attorney Tom Scott called the seizures the "largest-ever cash criminal forfeiture in United States history to be taken from a single narcotics smuggling group."In Washington, Attorney General Janet Reno signed an agreement to split about $180 million with Switzerland. Swiss Ambassador Alfred Defago said the agreement proved that "crime does not pay, not in the United States and not in Switzerland."At a news conference in Miami, the U.S. Customs Service displayed a check for $50 million seized from Paul Edward Hindelang, a convicted marijuana smuggler who worked with Nasser and his family.U.S. agencies, including the Internal Revenue Service, made a seizure in Georgia of $46 million in cash and several million dollars in real estate from Joe Pegg, a Floridian who also imported narcotics for the Nasser organization, agents said."We're not going to take it any longer," said Raphael Lopez, chief of the customs office here. "We're going to go after not only their dope but their money."U.S. authorities said the Nassers, of Barranquilla, were among the most powerful Colombian traffickers of the 1970s and '80s but were little known outside a country that produced the Medellin and Cali cocaine cartels.The Nassers pioneered the use of large freighters to transport tons of marijuana and cocaine through the Caribbean which were then offloaded to smaller, faster boats near the U.S. coast, agents said. The Nassers also guaranteed delivery.The family began stashing proceeds from cash-heavy smuggling operations in Switzerland in the late 1970s, counting on Swiss bank secrecy laws to protect their profits, agents said.After Switzerland changed its bank disclosure laws, U.S. drug agents launched Operation Tentmaker, a play on Nasser's penchant for sleeping in a tent in his marijuana fields when he first started in the business, officials said.U.S. and Swiss agents collaborated to trace a web of bank accounts containing millions of dollars in drug profits, officials said. Over the years, the money grew to $180 million through interest and investments.Sheila Arana, 56, was arrested in Switzerland and extradited to the United States in 1995 where she was sentenced to 12 years in prison in a plea agreement that forced her to surrender the family money in Europe.Nasser David, 58, is in prison in Colombia and faces drug charges in the United States but is unlikely to be extradited, agents said.The confiscated money will be distributed to federal and local law enforcement agencies to be used in future drug investigations, officials said.
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