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Briefing Book

Operation Dinero


Operation Dinero began in the DEA Atlanta Division during 1992 when DEA Special Agents penetrated the Cali mafia and were commissioned by the Colombian mafia to arrange money pickups in the United States and Europe. Phase I of the operation focused on undercover money pickups that identified the connection between drug trafficking and drug cell money groups in the United States. Phase II focused on DEA's operation of an off-shore private "Class B" bank which servedat least in appearanceas a legitimate source for laundering drug proceeds by the unwitting Colombian mafia.

With the expertise of the IRS, DEA, and the British Government, a private bank was established in Anguilla, British West Indies. Once the bank became operational, the DEA worked undercover to promote the services of the bank within the international criminal community, as well as to the Cali mafia in Colombia. By operating the bank, DEA undercover agents gained credibility with the Cali mafia, and in 1994, the bank began servicing drug trafficker accounts.

In addition, a number of undercover corporations were established in different jurisdictions as multi-service "front" businesses designed to supply "money laundering" services such as loans, cashiers checks, peso exchanges, wire transfers, or to establish holding companies or shell corporations for the trafficking groups. Ultimately, members of the Cali mafia engaged the bank to sell three paintings, a Picasso, a Reynolds and a Rubens. These paintings were seized by the DEA and IRS in 1994.

By operating the bank, the DEA developed knowledge concerning drug trafficking and money laundering methods used by the traffickers. By tracking the monies coming into the account and orders for disbursements, the DEA gleaned intelligence that led to related investigations in other jurisdictions throughout the United States and abroad.

Operation Dinero spanned four countries and several U.S. states. It resulted in 88 arrests, the seizure of approximately 9 tons of cocaine, and the confiscation of well over $50 million in cash and other property.

The 2-year joint enforcement operation was coordinated among the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, the Internal Revenue Service, Immigration and Naturalization Service, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and international law enforcement counterparts in the United Kingdom, Canada, Italy and Spain. The involvement of so many law enforcement entitiesforeign and domestic--demonstrated the success of international cooperation and intelligence sharing. Through Operation Dinero, the U.S. Government and the international law enforcement community made great strides in undermining and disrupting the Cali mafia's financial operationsthe lifeblood of their organization.


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