Colombian Accused of Helping Cartels Launder

     BROOKLYN (CN) — A Colombian man accused of helping launder more than $5 billion for drug cartels was arraigned Friday, a day after his extradition to the United States, prosecutors said.
     Jhon Jairo Hincapie-Ramirez, 55, was arrested in Colombia in August 2015 and extradited to the United States on Thursday, according to Brooklyn U.S. Attorney Robert Capers.
     He allegedly played a role in an international money-laundering operation that used Chinese and Hong Kong banks and the shipment of counterfeit goods to hide the source of drug trafficking.
     All told, over $5 billion was reportedly laundered for drug cartels based in Mexico and Colombia.
     The money laundering, which occurred from 2004 to 2014, was led by a group of Colombian nationals who set up shop in Guangzhou, China, according to prosecutors.
     They allegedly used bank accounts in Hong Kong and China on behalf of the cartels to buy counterfeit goods in China, which were then shipped to Colombia and other places for resale.
     The criminal enterprise paid Colombian pesos to the traffickers in exchange for U.S. dollar proceeds from drug sales “at a heavily discounted rate, which reflected the risks incurred by the money brokers,” according to a press release from Capers’ office.
     The brokers then sold U.S. dollars to customers in South American, typically businesses, which used the money to buy goods and services in China for resale, prosecutors say.
     Hincapie-Ramirez is accused of playing a role in the enterprise. Capers’ office did not specify the exact charges against him in the press release.

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