Thursday, August 03, 2006

Terrorist Money Laundering in Paraguay

For years, the region where the boundaries of Paraguay, Brazil and Argentina converge has been considered a teeming stew of globalization's more unseemly byproducts. Much of the trade that crosses the borders, officials say, is illegitimate. The region is full of smuggled goods and laundered money.

Now U.S. officials are launching a broad series of new measures aimed at uncovering money-laundering rings that they believe are funding Hezbollah and other radical groups

The only reason Paraguayan federal agent Maria Adelaida Vasquez found out about the marijuana was that two officers from the federal prosecutors' office coincidentally were in the neighborhood where the boats landed.

"We're not in a position to wage a battle against this kind of enterprise," said Vasquez, who said money laundering and other illegal financial transactions are increasingly intertwined with the narcotics trade. "The criminals are on the vanguard of technology, and we don't even have access to the Internet in our offices. If we have cellphones, it's because we buy them with our own money."

No Internet access? No cell phones? No Arabic speakers? This is a middle eastern terrorist's playground. Criminals find the weakest link to exploit. Paraguay appears to be one of them.

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