American, Canadian Among Six Charged with Laundering Drug Profits
CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) _ Six people, including an American and a Canadian, were charged Friday with laundering $1 billion in drug money during the past four years.
A new, tougher law against money laundering, which U.S. investigators say is big business here, took effect on Sept. 30.
The judge in the northwestern city of Maracaibo who issued the charges told The Associated Press she is investigating 19 banks in this town along the Colombian border. Judge Mirta Rios de Alvarez said she expects to issue more charges next week.
The charges of profiting from trafficking in illegal drugs carry a maximum penalty of 15 years in jail.
Among those charged were U.S. citizen Mohamed Ali Farhat and Canadian citizen George Elias Juha, both of whom live in Maracaibo. No other information about them was immediately available.
Both were being held in jail Friday.
Also charged were three Venezuelans and a man whose nationality was not immediately known.
Since Oct. 21, a Caracas judge has charged 30 people with money laundering, called for audits of 10 banks and closed 18 currency exchange houses on Venezuela’s southwest border with Colombia. Judge Mildred Camero estimates the ring laundered as much as $5 billion in the last 3 1/2 years.