(CN) - The U.S. government can seize drug money from Colombian banks, a federal judge in Washington, D.C., ruled.
In 2003, the government sought forfeiture of funds in 38 Colombian bank accounts after undercover Drug Enforcement Administration agents penetrated a money laundering organization that funneled funds to drug traffickers.
When 33 of the accounts were closed, the government then narrowed its focus to just five accounts.
U.S. District Judge Ricardo Urbina granted the government's motion because he said the government showed that drug money in the U.S. was transferred to the accounts in Colombia.
"Because the DEA operation directly facilitated specific transfers of drug proceeds into U.S. bank accounts, which were wired to the defendant accounts at the direction of the criminal defendants, the path of the money is well documented and has been verified by the IRS's criminal investigations unit," Urbina wrote.
The judge added that drug traffickers instructed DEA undercover agents to pick up large sums of drug money and deposit the funds into U.S. or foreign banks more than 60 times.
"Thus, the government has demonstrated by a preponderance of the evidence that the money in the defendant accounts is subject to forfeiture ... because those funds can be verifiably traced to illegal sales of narcotics and/or were laundered through U.S. bank accounts," Urbina concluded.
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