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     United States Department of Justice

    US Charges Guatemalan Bank Chief, Ex-Politician for Laundering Drug Money

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    WASHINGTON (Sputnik) - The director of a Guatemalan bank has been arrested in Florida for drug-related money laundering while a similar indictment was mounted against a former Guatemalan presidential candidate, the US Department of Justice (DoJ) said in a press release.

    "[DOJ] announced today the arrest of Alvaro Estuardo Cobar Bustamante, the director of a national Guatemalan bank, on a charge of money laundering, and the unsealing of a money laundering case against Manuel Antonio Baldizon Mendez, a former candidate for president of Guatemala", the release said on Tuesday.

    The release said the FBI initiated a sting operation to gather evidence of Cobar Bustamante's money laundering activity after multiple cooperating witnesses who were prosecuted for narcotics trafficking informed the bureau that the Guatemalan banker was involved in helping them launder drug proceeds.

    "In recorded conversations, Cobar Bustamante is alleged to have agreed to accept what was represented to be money earned from drug trafficking and to secretly move that money to the United States by using his position as the director of a national Guatemalan bank", the DoJ said.

    The release added that Cobar Bustamante was scheduled to have his initial appearance before US Magistrate Judge Edwin G. Torres in Miami on Wednesday.

    Baldizon Mendez was prosecuted in a separate case that was unsealed in the Southern District of Florida. According to court documents, including a Stipulated Factual Proffer, as a campaign supporter and later as a presidential candidate, Baldizon Mendez solicited money to fund his political campaigns.

    "Baldizon Mendez accepted campaign contributions knowing they were being made by narcotics traffickers and were the proceeds of narcotics trafficking," the DoJ said. "Thereafter, Baldizon Mendez engaged in financial transactions, including the purchase of property in Miami, to hide the fact that he had knowingly accepted campaign contributions (money) from narcotics traffickers".

    Baldizon Mendez had previously pleaded guilty to money laundering and was sentenced to 50 months in prison, the DoJ added.

    Tags:
    drug trafficking, US Justice Department, drug, Guatemala, United States
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