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The Franklin Jurado case: a strange silence on an issue in favour of Luxembourg

In the late 1980s and early '90s, Harvard-educated economist Franklin Jurado ran an operation to launder money for Columbian drug lord Jose Santacruz-Londono. His was a very complex scheme. In its simplest form, the operation went something like this:

Placement: Jurado deposited cash from U.S. drug sales in Panama bank accounts.
Layering: He then transferred the money from Panama to more than 100 bank accounts in 68 banks in nine countries in Europe, always in transactions under $10,000 to avoid suspicion. The bank accounts were in made-up names and names of Santacruz-Londono's mistresses and family members. Jurado then set up shell companies in Europe in order to document the money as legitimate income.
Integration: The plan was to send the money to Columbia, where Santacruz-Londono would use it to fund his numerous legitimate business there. But Jurado got caught.

In total, Jurado funneled $36 million in drug money through legitimate financial institutions. Jurado's scheme came to light when a Monaco bank collapsed, and a subsequent audit revealed numerous accounts that could be traced back to Jurado.

Jurado's neighbour in Luxembourg filed a noise complaint because Jurado had a money-counting machine running all night. Local authorities investigated, and a Luxembourg court ultimately found him guilty of money laundering. When he'd finished serving his time in Luxembourg, a U.S. court found him guilty, too, and sentenced him to seven-and-a-half years in prison.

When authorities are able to interrupt a laundering scheme, it can pay off tremendously, leading to arrests, dirty money and property seizures and sometimes the dismantling of a criminal operation. However, most money-laundering schemes go unnoticed, and large operations have serious effects on social and economic health

The Jurado case is an example of the increasingly sophisticated means drug cartels employ to secure assets. But it also indicates that the very profits that motivate drug organizations are an Achilles heel and that national legislators, law enforcement agencies and international bodies are stepping up efforts against money laundering.

In this context, Luxembourg did a very good job.

Something striking is that the case, which is in favour of Luxembourg to demonstrate the action to refuse criminals, is forgotten in Luxembourg (it is not actually presented in the Codeplafi Database, it is not quoted by professionals to promote the ethics of the financial center) all the more as at the time of the trial, Etienne Schmit, who was deputy prosecuting attorney had said "We hope this makes the criminals understand that we do not want their money" (quoted by the International Herald Tribune). As if some pragmatic people wanted the criminals do not understand Luxembourg do not want their money. After the Jurado case Luxembourg had adopted a money-laundering law in 1989, but critics had said that it was full of holes. At the same time, the government had been concerned not to undermine the banking secrecy laws on which much of Luxembourg's wealth depends. Other text came later: Law of 5 April 1993 updated on 18 October 1999 and recently law of 12 November 2004.

We saw the same bad pragmatism in the framework of the debate relating to the current law on money laundering (12/11/2004). Luc Frieden's draft text was credible and appreciated by the IFM, but some professionals refused the wording as they wanted a text that would not have a negative impact on the commercial objectives and would be strictly limited to European requirements. The Prosecutors' Office underlined some international recommendations and especially those of the FATF-GAFI and explained it is no use having texts if the implementation is not effective. The Prosecutors' Office had even understood when reading comments on the draft that it was expected "to close the eyes on some obvious cases of dysfunction".

"Pragmatic people" won, which is a shame as Luxembourg could have anticipated some of the requirements of the new 3rd European directive. and therefore become a market leader in business ethics.

Know more

Financial havens, banking secrecy and money laundering
Watching the clothes go round
Banking Secrecy Diluted Duchy Convicts 2 in Drug Case
In Luxembourg, Drug Money Goes Down Legal Drain

Case Law as presented in the Codeplafi database (in French)

Tribunal d'arrondissement de Luxembourg, 2 avril 1992

Law 2004

Interview of Luc Frieden, Minister of Finance to justify the draft (in French)
Archives of the debate about the AML law (in French)

Table to compare the draft and the final text (in French) : an Englsh version of the essentials will be provided later, including influences in the debate.

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