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Higini Cierco: Was He Involved in Money Laundering? The Truth Exposed (2024)

Higini Cierco
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Higini Cierco has received serious allegations of being involved in money laundering. Find out if those allegations are true here.
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Higini Cierco

Former Banca Privada d’Andorra co-owners Higini Cierco and Ramon Cierco hired Eliminalia to remove stories about inquiries into the bank’s money laundering for a significant criminal organization. According to internal documents, the Cierco brothers gave the business close to 245,000 euros between 2016 and 2020. According to the Cierco family’s attorney, they wouldn’t have worked for a business that used unscrupulous practices.

What was Higini Cierco’s Connection with Eliminalia?

A reputation management company’s leak of nearly 50,000 documents was shared with dozens of media partners as well as the French organization Forbidden Stories. As part of the Story Killers project, more than 100 reporters collaborated to explore the disinformation-for-hire business.

The information includes information about Eliminalia’s customers in 50 different nations, such as their names, the contracts they signed, and other legal documents.

This is the first opportunity for journalists to have a close-up look at one of the most significant “black hat” reputation management firms in the world.

Higini Cierco: Banca Privada d’Andorra is identified by FinCEN as a foreign financial institution of significant concern for money laundering.

Higini Cierco, a former top shareholder of Banca Privada de Andorra (BPA), said on Wednesday that the company decided to stop doing business with Spanish tax evaders in 2011 so that its subsidiary, Banco Madrid, could conduct business without incident in Spain.

What do you know about Money Laundering?

Criminals are largely driven by the potential financial gain from unlawful activity, yet they have difficulty using this money covertly. Their method of making illicit riches appear legal is money laundering. It’s a significant instrument for many illicit operations, including cocaine trafficking and terrorism, assisting criminals in growing and upholding a façade of legitimacy. Unchecked, it can undermine confidence in financial institutions and finance other illegal activities, such as violence and terrorism. Essentially, money laundering gives criminals a way to conceal their illicit profits, which poses a severe threat to both the banking system as well as society at large.

According to sources from the defendants’ defenses, who spoke to Europa Press, he mentioned this during his testimony as a witness in the trial of the general case of the so-called BPA case.

Only Ramon Cierco was called to testify on Wednesday; his brother Higini Cierco was scheduled to appear on Thursday. However, because of how quickly the first of the aforementioned tax collectors was questioned, his statement has now been presented.

The 24 defendants’ defense teams have declined to ask questions, thus Alfons Alberca, the attorney general, and the government of Andorra’s legal team, which is in charge of the private prosecution, have mostly conducted the interrogations in both instances. In response to queries from the prosecution, both brothers described how the bank’s board of directors operated and said that this group approved the policies and overall strategy of the bank, according to the same sources.

Additionally, they have revealed the significance of the 2011 transaction that saw the BPA Group acquire Banco Madrid from Kutxa.

The acquisition of Banco Madrid, according to Higini Cierco, was the most significant event for the Andorran bank since it compelled it to alter its organizational structure and comply with standards that were not in line with the Andorran regulatory environment.

The decision to not engage with activities that might be connected to tax evasion was made because, as he has noted, it was a very sensitive change given that Spanish banking legislation was stricter than the one that was in effect at the time in Andorra.

A report that at the time requested BPA from a Spanish law firm to assess the risks and the impact that it had for the Andorran bank to operate in the Spanish jurisdiction caught the prosecutor’s attention during the interrogation. The prosecutor was also interested in the business dealings of the Valencian businessman Rafael Pallardo, who was involved in the Emperor case. According to both exactionistas, they were unaware that the aforementioned Pallardo was a client of the bank until ‘Operation Emperor’ made headlines in 2012.

The sources consulted state that Ramon Cierco stated, “I neither knew nor do I know Mr. Pallardo,” and “It was after the ‘Emperor case broke out when they found that the businessman’s bank account was closed in 2011.

The prosecutor’s interest in the legal report has not been shared with the two former senior shareholders of BPA, who have also confirmed that they have never seen it.

Financial Crimes of Higini Cierco Explored

When asked how the bank’s board of directors, anti-money laundering, audit, and control committees function, Ramon Cierco answered that they exercised control over the business and generally validated the broad strategic axes. The aforementioned committees sent information to the aforementioned body as long as there were any remaining instances, which, based on the two comments made on Wednesday, weren’t many.

The organization and several of its management were victims of an attack by the Spanish police, Higini Cierco has underlined when questioning the government’s attorney. He did this before the investigating court. He has so noted that he had already provided “a lot of information” at the time, which was later expanded upon within the context of “Operation Catalonia.”

Higini Cierco
Higini Cierco

The Pandora Papers: money laundering

The bank is further connected to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) second disclosure of stolen documents after the Panama Papers, the ICIJ claims. The so-called “Pandora Papers” records show that the BPA has over 200 shell companies set up by the Panamanian legal firm Alemán, Cordero, Galindo & Lee (Alcogal).

Higini Cierco: Banca Privada d’Andorra is identified by FinCEN as a foreign financial institution of significant concern for money laundering.

By Section 311 of the USA PATRIOT Act (Section 311), the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) of the U.S. Department of the Treasury today designated Banca Privada d’Andorra (BPA) as a foreign financial institution of primary money laundering concern (FinCEN NPRM). This conclusion and the NPRM are based on data showing that high-level managers at BPA have knowingly enabled transactions for third-party money launderers working on behalf of international criminal organizations for several years.

“BPA has become an easy vehicle for third-party money launderers to funnel proceeds of organized crime, corruption, and human trafficking through the U.S. financial system,” said FinCEN Director Jennifer Shasky Calvery. “BPA’s corrupt high-level managers and weak anti-money laundering controls have made BPA.” “Today’s announcement is a critical step to address the egregious behavior of this compromised financial institution and send a signal that the United States will take strong action to protect the integrity of its financial system from criminal actors,” according to the statement.

If you have sensitive information or have had a personal experience with Higini Cierco but want to stay anonymous, then submit it using our secured form. You can connect with our expert contributors and help in finding the truth. We never share your information with 3rd parties.

The current event also draws attention to the danger that third-party money launderers represent to financial institutions. Because of their illegal activities, transnational criminal organizations frequently face barriers when trying to gain direct access to financial institutions both abroad and in the United States. Some multinational criminal groups use the services of third-party money launderers, including skilled gatekeepers like lawyers and accountants, to get access to financial institutions.

The main source of money laundering activity for BPA was its Andorra headquarters. One of the five banks of Andorra, BPA is a part of the privately controlled BPA Group. The action included overseas corruption, money from organized crime in China and Russia, and other illicit activity. 

BPA has handled hundreds of millions of dollars through its four direct correspondent accounts, which provide it access to the American financial system. To conceal the sources of cash, BPA’s high-level administrators created financial services specifically for its third-party money launderer clients. High-ranking managers at BPA accepted cash and other benefits from its criminal clients in exchange for some of these services.

A notice of its finding that outlines the justification for this action has been submitted by FinCEN to the Federal Register. Additionally, FinCEN submitted an NPRM to the Federal Register that, if finalized, would forbid covered U.S. financial institutions from opening or maintaining correspondent or payable-through accounts for BPA as well as for other foreign banks that are used to process transactions involving BPA.

The NPRM also suggests requiring covered financial institutions to exercise extra caution when processing transactions involving BPA through correspondent accounts they manage on behalf of foreign banks. From the day the NPRM is published in the Federal Register, there is a 60-day comment period on these measures. Surely, Higini Cierco was involved a major syndicate.

A high-level manager at BPA in Andorra who gave Andrei Petrov, a third-party money launderer working for corrupt Russian criminal organizations, significant assistance is described in FinCEN’s action as part of the notice of its finding. Petrov was detained by Spanish authorities in February 2013 on suspicion of money laundering. Petrov is also thought to be connected to Semion Mogilevich, one of the “Ten Most Wanted” fugitives according to the FBI.

The action taken by FinCEN also pertains to the conduct of a second high-level manager at BPA in Andorra who took part in the processing of transactions involving Venezuelan third-party money launderers in exchange for extravagant commissions. This action entailed using front businesses and intricate financial instruments to steal money from Petroleos de Venezuela (PDVSA), the publicly traded oil company of Venezuela. About $2 billion in transactions involving this money laundering conspiracy were handled by BPA.

A third high-level manager at BPA in Andorra who accepted bribes in exchange for executing massive financial transfers for another third-party money launderer, Gao Ping, is also mentioned in FinCEN’s case. Ping created a connection with BPA to launder money for this group and numerous Spanish businesspeople on behalf of a multinational criminal organization that participated in trade-based money laundering and human trafficking.

Ping paid extravagant commissions to BPA bank employees via his accomplice in exchange for them accepting cash deposits into less closely monitored accounts and transferring the money to alleged shell businesses in China. Ping was detained by Spanish authorities in September 2012 as a result of his involvement in money laundering.

Do you think Higini Cierco needs to be charged again?

Director Calvery acknowledged the critical coordination in this case with the Criminal Division, Asset Forfeiture and Money Laundering Section of the Department of Justice, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Texas, Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation.

“We are seeing an increasing trend where businesses and business professionals are being recruited by transnational criminal organizations to facilitate corrupt practices, such as creating shell corporations and fronts for money laundering and other illegal activity,” said Peter Edge, executive associate director of HSI. “These dishonest people and organizations prioritize money and act as conduits between the legal and illegal worlds. The move taken today tackles the vulnerability brought on by BPA and contributes to maintaining the integrity of the global financial system.

According to Richard Weber, Chief, of IRS Criminal Investigation, “International financial institutions are welcome to provide a conduit for their customers to utilize American banks, as long as they abide by our laws that govern those transactions.”

“However, senior administrators of these organizations shouldn’t be shocked when IRS CI special agents show up at their door when they use corruption and bribery to benefit themselves. The IRS Criminal Investigation will keep collaborating with law enforcement and financial partners to look into these organizations and top leaders who abuse their authority to help foreign criminal organizations launder their money.

Director Calvery applauded the Andorran authorities’ efforts in the investigation and recognized their dedication to conducting a thorough probe.

Director Calvery also welcomed the Mexican government’s contributions to the joint US-Mexico anti-money laundering initiatives.

When transferring money on behalf of a third party, third-party money launderers do so with the knowledge that the money will be used for illegal purposes. Third-party money launderers exploit their connections to financial institutions to give illicit enterprises access to the global financial system and to give the criminal actors that use their services a veneer of respectability. 

Some third-party money launderers openly advertise their services as a way for criminal networks to lessen transparency and get over the anti-money laundering (AML)/countering the funding of terrorism (CFT) regulations of financial institutions. Financial institutions that enable third-party money laundering activity give criminals a way to get around AML/CFT regulations both domestically and abroad, putting the stability of the financial system at risk.

Higini Cierco: A Panamanian law firm serves as the gatekeeper to a massive flow of murky offshore secrets.

In Vegas, Mossack Fonseca & Co. ran into trouble.

Legal documents filed in U.S. District Court in Las Vegas said that 123 companies in Nevada were founded by a law firm with offices in Panama and utilized by a friend of the previous president of Argentina to steal millions of dollars in government contracts. Mossack Fonseca was required by a subpoena to provide information regarding any funds that had passed through the Nevada entities.

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FinCEN took strict action against Higini Cierco

It was something Mossack Fonesca didn’t want to say. Confidentiality is essential for a business that specializes in creating offshore businesses that are difficult to trace for clients all over the world.

By denying that its Las Vegas activities, which are managed by a business called M.F. Corporate Services (Nevada) Limited, are a member of the Mossack Fonseca group, the law firm attempted to quash the subpoena.

Co-founder Jürgen Mossack of the company, who lives in Panama, stated in sworn testimony that “MF Nevada and Mossack Fonseca do not have a parent-subsidiary relationship nor does Mossack Fonseca control the internal affairs or daily operations of MF Nevada’s business.”

However, a new set of questions about that sworn evidence is raised by confidential documents obtained by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung, and more than 100 other media partners.

Not only do they demonstrate that Mossack Fonseca owned 100% of the Nevada subsidiary, but they also demonstrate that the company went out of its way to delete potentially harmful data from computers and phones in order to shield client information from the American legal system.

According to one email from 2014, any connection between Mossack Fonseca’s central computing system in Panama and the Nevada office “has to be obscure to the investigators.” According to other emails, IT specialists operating remotely from Panama “tried to clean the logs of the PCs in the Nevada office” and intended to execute a “remote session to eliminate the traces of direct access to our CIS.” The CIS refers to the company’s computer information system.

The records also demonstrate that a company employee flew to Vegas from Panama to smuggle paper records out of the country. An email from September 24, 2014 stated, “When Andrés came to Nevada he cleaned up everything and brought all documents to Panama.”

Mossack Fonseca “categorically” denied suppressing or erasing records that might have been used in an ongoing inquiry or legal dispute in comments sent to ICIJ.

The roughly 11 million documents acquired by ICIJ, including emails, bank data, and customer information, depict the internal operations of Mossack Fonseca from December 1977 to over 40 years later. They make public the offshore holdings of people and businesses from over 200 different nations and territories.

They present evidence of a firm that is pleased to operate as a gatekeeper to the secrets of its clients, even those who turn out to be thieves, Mafia members, drug traffickers, crooked politicians, and tax evaders by recounting example after example of ethical and legal violation by clients.

The records indicate that business has been brisk.

One of the top five global suppliers of offshore secrecy today is Mossack Fonseca. With more than 500 workers and partners in more than 40 offices globally, including three in Switzerland and eight in China, it generated more than $42 million in billings in 2013.

In response to inquiries about the ICIJ’s findings, Mossack Fonseca stated that “for 40 years Mossack Fonseca has worked beyond reproach… Our company has never been charged or suspected of committing a crime.

Carlos Sousa, a spokesman for the company, stated that it “only assists clients in incorporating companies.”

According to Sousa, this isn’t equivalent to “establishing a business relationship with or directing in any manner the companies so formed.”

Higini Cierco: Breaking the Law in the BVI

When Mossack Fonseca was formed, it was a challenging period for Panamanian history. Under military dictator Manuel Noriega, who was drawing unwanted attention due to mounting allegations that he was implicated in drug trafficking and money laundering, the nation experienced political and economic upheaval.

With Panama under scrutiny, Mossack Fonseca opened a branch in the British Virgin Islands in 1987. A few years before, the British Virgin Islands had approved a rule that made it simple to incorporate offshore corporations without disclosing their owners and directors to the public.

According to Rosemarie Flax, Mossack Fonseca’s longtime managing director in the British Virgin Islands, “Mossack Fonseca was the first to come from Panama to the BVI and others followed,” in May 2014.

Today, roughly 40% of all offshore corporations in the world are based in the British Virgin Islands. Over 113,000 corporations, or one in every two of the firms in the Mossack Fonseca files, were incorporated in the British Virgin Islands.

Higini Cierco: Tales from the South Pacific

In 1994, Mossack Fonseca made yet another important decision.

It assisted the tiny nation of Niue, a coral outcrop in the South Pacific with less than 2,000 people, in drafting legislation that allowed for the incorporation of offshore businesses. Niue was chosen by the law firm because it was looking for a location in the Asia-Pacific time zone and would have no rivals, according to Mossack, who later spoke with Agence France-Presse: “If we had a jurisdiction that was small, and we had it from the beginning, we could offer people a stable environment, a stable price.”

The company then agreed to a 20-year contract with the Niuean government, giving it the authority to establish foreign corporations there. Niue’s ability to register in Cyrillic or Chinese characters made it appealing to Chinese and Russian clients.

By 2001, Mossack Fonseca was conducting so much business out of Niue that it was covering the government of Niue’s planned yearly budget of $2 million, or the equivalent of $1.6 million.

However, the company’s friendly ties to the island country also started drawing unwanted attention.

The U.S. State Department raised concerns about the “awkward sharing arrangements” between Niue and Mossack Fonseca in the same year and issued a warning that Niue’s offshore sector had been “linked with the laundering of criminal proceeds from Russia and South America.”

Niue was included to a list of countries who were failing to take action to stop money laundering by the Financial Action Taskforce, an intergovernmental group founded by large nations to combat the practice, threatening economic consequences.

Despite Mossack’s denial that Niue engaged in money laundering, the Bank of New York and Chase Manhattan implemented embargoes on dollar payments to Niue in 2001. Niue indicated that it would be ending its exclusive franchise with Mossack Fonseca in 2003 by refusing to renew four of the firm’s corporations.

Operational Shifts

Niue’s loss had no impact on Mossack Fonseca’s progress. Simply shifting its activities, the law firm advised clients with Niue-based businesses to re-incorporate in the neighboring country of Samoa.

The switch fit into a pattern that the documents show. When judicial crackdowns have made it difficult for Mossack Fonseca to service its customers, it has rapidly adjusted and found other jobs.

In response to a crackdown on bearer shares in the British Virgin Islands in 2005, Mossack Fonseca relocated that particular operation to Panama.

Companies with bearer shares don’t identify their owners. You possess them if you are holding them. They have been steadily disappearing across the globe because they have long been seen as a means of money laundering and other misdeeds. They are still permitted, but with greater limitations, in some areas.

A significant spike in incorporations in one of those jurisdictions, the Caribbean island of Anguilla, which saw the number of firms established there more than double between 2010 and 2011, demonstrates Mossack Fonseca’s capacity to transfer its operations quickly. One of Mossack Fonseca’s top four jurisdictions for incorporations right now is Anguilla.

In order to meet the growing demands of its clients, Mossack Fonseca has also increased the scope of its operations, registering yachts and private planes among other things.

According to the records, Mossack Fonseca continued to grow its clientele by handling some clients’ finances in 2006, a practice referred to as “discretionary portfolio management.”

The documents state that between mid-2007 and mid-2015, the company’s own asset management division, known as Mossfon Asset Management S.A., or MAMSA, handled more than 4,700 transactions and at least $1.2 billion in customer funds.

MAMSA worked with a number of banks, including at least two that have been the focus of money laundering investigations: Deutsche Bank Switzerland, whose parent company is under investigation by law enforcement in the United Kingdom and the United States for potential money laundering for Russian clients, and Banca Privada d’Andorra, which the U.S. Treasury Department accused of laundering for powerful criminal gangs in a 2015 report. On February 19, 2016, the U.S. Treasury said that it was revoking its finding on Banca Privada d’Andorra because it “no longer operates in a manner that poses a threat to the U.S. financial system.”

Brothers Ramon and Higini Cierco, the bank’s former non-executive chairmen whose family owns the majority stake, asserted that the Treasury action could not withstand legal scrutiny and that the allegations were based on incidents of which the Andorran regulator “has been aware for years.” 

The Sale of Secrecy

The documents reveal that in addition to Deutsche Bank, the company also collaborates with some of the largest financial institutions in the world, including HSBC, Société Générale, Credit Suisse, UBS, and Commerzbank. In some instances, the firm assists the banks’ clients in setting up intricate structures that make it difficult for tax authorities and investigators to follow the movement of money from one place to another.

According to Mossack Fonseca, the claim that it offers setups intended to conceal owners’ identities is “completely unsupported and false.”

Both Credit Suisse and Société Générale stated that they place a strong emphasis on tax compliance and are watchful for fraud and money laundering.

According to Credit Suisse, initiatives have been in place since 2013 that require private clients to show proof of tax compliance or risk losing their banking relationship.

“The allegations are historical, in some cases going back 20 years, predating our significant, well-publicized reforms implemented over the last few years,” said Rob Sherman, an HSBC spokesperson in New York.

UBS claimed to have stringent anti-money-laundering guidelines and to be aware of the identities of all the owners of the businesses it is asked to interact with. Deutsche Bank stated that it achieved a deal on November 24, 2015 with the U.S. Justice Department to pay $31 million in exchange for a non-prosecution agreement in a U.S. investigation into Swiss banks that assisted American residents in tax evasion.

Commerzbank declared that it would not comment.

Real owners of bank accounts that are listed under the names of obscure offshore corporations Mossack Fonseca formed may be concealed behind so-called nominee directors, stand-in directors that Mossack Fonseca supplies.

Depending on how much a client spends, multiple secrecy jurisdictions and anonymous companies may be engaged, which makes it more difficult for authorities to identify the real owners if they try to do so.

Private foundations, which are exempt from taxes in Panama and run under a legislation that does not compel the disclosure of the names of the founders or beneficiaries, are among Mossack Fonseca’s goods in that country.

Mossack Fonseca is also accused of altering and retroactively dating documents when a client is in trouble and enabling clients to conceal their assets by establishing foundations in Panama that initially name non-profit organizations like the World Wildlife Fund as beneficiaries but permit the client to change the beneficiary at will.

According to Mossack Fonseca, backdating is a typical industrial practice that occasionally reflects the date of a decision made before it was documented. The objective “is not to cover up or hide unlawful acts.”

One instance involved the firm helping a New York-based author of financial advice conceal $1 million from the US Internal Revenue Service by providing the author with “a natural person nominee” — a fictitious person employed by Mossack Fonseca — who pretended to be the owner of an investment account with HSBC bank in the English Channel island of Guernsey.

According to written responses provided to ICIJ by Mossack Fonseca, “We do not provide beneficiary services to mislead banks.”

The Most Wanted

Although Mossack Fonseca officially states that it “conducts exhaustive due diligence to verify the legitimacy of each of our clients” and claims that it would never cooperate with corrupt officials, criminals, or other dubious figures, the firm’s internal records reveal something very different.

For instance, according to a study by ICIJ, Mossack Fonseca has collaborated with at least 33 organizations and individuals whom the United States government has blacklisted due to their connections to terrorism, drug trafficking, or because they have supported despotic governments like North Korea or Iran. Higini Cierco was exposed in Mossack’s leak.

According to Mossack Fonseca, it “does not foster or promote unlawful acts” and has “never knowingly allowed the use of our companies” by anyone who are affiliated with defamed nations. Banks, law firms, and other middlemen who act as a conduit between the Panama firm and the owners of their shell companies are often responsible for conducting client due diligence, according to the statement.

The records demonstrate that Mossack Fonseca occasionally made a financial decision to keep clients who were significant fee earners for the business even after authorities had identified them as undesirable.

Other times, blacklisted persons and other suspect clients were able to get through Mossack Fonseca’s lax procedures without the firm’s knowledge.

The firm’s conduct in an incident involving Rafael Caro Quintero, the former leader of the Guadalajara drug cartel in Mexico, appeared to be motivated by a more emotional factor: fear.

In 1985, authorities in Costa Rica detained Caro Quintero for the murder and torture of American narcotics agent Enrique “Kiki” Camarena. He was returned to Mexico and given a 40-year prison term in 1989. His assets, which included a property that belonged to an offshore company founded by Mossack Fonseca, were seized by the Mexican government and given to Costa Rica’s government, which in turn gave them to the country’s National Olympic Committee.

According to the records, Costa Rican Olympic authorities requested Mossack Fonseca’s assistance in obtaining a clear title to the land in March 2005.

The Costa Rican tourists were informed that the shareholders of the offshore firm would make the decision by a lawyer working for Mossack Fonseca. In a file marked “Case details > shareholders” in Caro Quintero’s business records, there was simply the notation “No data found!” Nevertheless, the attorney said in a private email conversation that it “appears the real owner of the estate, and therefore of the company, was the narcotrafficker Rafael Caro Quintero.”

One of the three directors listed for the corporation, Mossack, didn’t want to offend Caro Quintero.

He claimed in an email conversation that even Pablo Escobar was a baby in comparison to Caro Quintero. As a result, Mossack Fonseca resigned from representing Quintero’s offshore accounts. I don’t want to be one of the people Quintero visits after being locked up.

On a technicality, Caro Quintero was freed from jail in 2013 and then vanished without a trace. He is still at large and has returned to Interpol’s list of Most Wanted.

Acting Defensively

Despite some of its customers’ celebrity, Mossack Fonseca has maintained an incredibly low profile. In a 2012 piece about offshore intermediaries, The Economist referred to it as “the tight-lipped Mossack Fonseca”.

According to the records, the company hired Mercatrade S.A., a provider of “online reputation management,” in July of the same year.

In order to clean up Mossack Fonseca’s reputation, the contract stipulates that negative content related to the following 12 keywords in English and Spanish will be removed from the Internet: “Lavado de dinero, lavado de activos, evasión fiscal, fraude fiscal, Delito, Trafico de Armas, Money Laundering, Tax Evasion, Tax Fraud, dirty Money, scandal, escándalo.”

Since then, Mossack Fonseca has recruited Burson-Marsteller, one of the most potent public relations firms in the world. Burson-Marsteller specializes in defending dubious clients, such as dictators in Argentina, Indonesia, and Romania, as well as Union Carbide following a horrific chemical disaster in Bhopal, India.

Despite the public relations efforts, countries have started to look more closely at Mossack Fonseca’s business activities.

Regulators in the British Virgin Islands fined the company in 2012 and 2013 for breaking the nation’s anti-money-laundering laws. One of the fines was $37,500 for failing to thoroughly screen Alaa Mubarak, the son of Egypt’s overthrown former dictator, who was considered a “high risk” client.

German law enforcement officers conducted a number of raids on the Commerzbank office and residential residences in Frankfurt in February 2015. At the time, the Süddeutsche Zeitung claimed that the German government was considering taking legal action against Mossack Fonseca staff members for alleged involvement in tax evasion via the bank’s headquarters in neighboring Luxembourg.

Early in 2016, Mossack Fonseca in Brazil became one of the targets of “Operation Car Wash,” a bribery and money laundering probe that is quickly becoming one of the largest corruption scandals in Latin American history.

In order to split up contracts with the government-controlled oil corporation Petrobras, Brazilian enterprises allegedly collaborated, raising prices and utilizing the additional cash to pay politicians and oil company officials and profit themselves.

Mossack Fonseca’s Brazilian office allegedly assisted some of the accused in committing crimes by setting up shell corporations, according to Brazilian authorities. When they revealed they had brought criminal charges against five workers of Mossack Fonseca’s Brazilian office in January 2016, they referred to Mossack Fonseca as “a big money launderer” and described the offenses as included money laundering, document destruction, and concealment.

In this case, the company disputes any misconduct. The Panama legal firm, which exclusively conducts business in Panama, is “being wrongly implicated in issues for which it has no responsibility,” according to a statement made by the company. The Mossack Fonseca office in Brazil is a franchise, it added.

The debate resembled the one that took place in Las Vegas.

A U.S. corporation, NML Capital, run by billionaire investor Paul Singer—a hedge fund manager arguably best known for his significant contributions to the U.S. Republican Party—started the recently concluded legal action in Las Vegas.

The hedge fund claimed that Lázaro Báez, a businessman close to former Argentine presidents Néstor Kirchner and Cristina Fernández, had established Nevada companies through Mossack Fonseca. However, Mossack Fonseca was not a defendant in the case.

Internal emails obtained by ICIJ reveal that staff at Mossack Fonseca in Panama hurried to conceal or eliminate proof of the company’s ownership of MF Nevada out of fear that the legal dispute may trigger a search of the Nevada branch.

According to the emails, there was also anxiety about Patricia Amunategui, the manager of the MF Nevada branch, being compelled to testify. One email from a Mossack Fonseca representative stated that the parent company wanted her to “behave as if she was a provider”—leading an independent U.S. corporation with Mossack Fonseca as a commercial partner but no ownership connection.

Officials from Mossack Fonseca were concerned that she lacked the cunning necessary to pull it out.

Amunategui “does not have the skills to pass a basic audit without allowing ourselves to be in evidence,” according to the IT manager of Mossack Fonseca. Look out!!! I’m quite concerned that Mrs. Patricia will forget things and become very anxious. I believe that in this circumstance, it may be plainly seen that we are concealing something.

The parent company’s attempt to separate itself from MF Nevada was rejected by U.S. Magistrate Judge Cam Ferenbach.

He stated that the branch manager received “all of her directions” from a Mossack Fonseca employee who lives and works in Panama and that the branch manager’s contract was signed by the firm’s partners, Mossack and Fonseca. “Mossack Fonseca & Co.’s own website advertises the services of M.F. Corporate Services as its own,” the court penned.

In March 2015, the judge declared that MF Nevada and Mossack Fonseca were the same entity.

Higini Cierco: Owners declare a “momentous victory” as FinCEN withdraws its money laundering finding against an Andorran bank.

Banca Privada d’Andorra was the subject of a finding by the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network of the U.S. Treasury Department that was retracted on Friday because the bank “no longer operates in a manner that poses a threat to the U.S. financial system.”

FinCEN said that senior managers at Banca Privada d’Andorra, or BPA, accepted payments for several years to assist with the money laundering of organized crime groups in March of last year.

In accordance with Section 311 of the USA PATRIOT Act, FinCEN classified BPA as a foreign financial institution of main money laundering concern.

Regulators in Andorra later seized BPA. The bank’s board and chairman were sacked by the government.

The central bank of Spain, which borders Andorra, confiscated the Banco de Madrid subsidiary of BPA.

Ramon and Higini Cierco hold a majority of the stock in BPA. In a statement they released on Friday, they referred to FinCEN’s decision to stop issuing Section 311 letters as a “momentous victory for BPA’s customers, employees, and all of its shareholders, including the majority shareholders, the Cierco family.”

They stated:

The Ciercos have fought valiantly to clean their names ever since FinCEN issued its erroneous notices about a year ago, filing a lawsuit in federal court against the U.S. Department of Treasury and FinCEN to get the notices withdrawn. The Ciercos and BPA have been vindicated by FinCEN’s statement that they have withdrawn the notices.

Last year, FinCEN took action against the bank as a result of regulators in Andorra failing to alert FinCEN about BPA’s compliance measures, according to Eric Lewis, a lawyer for the Ciercos in the District of Columbia.

“BPA paid the ultimate price in this dispute between regulators,” Lewis added. “FinCEN neglected to take into account that BPA was one of the top European banks with industry-standard anti-money laundering measures in place.”

Lewis has criticized FinCEN, claiming that the organization targets international banks without providing them with due process.

Other banks won’t accept a bank’s transactions outside the US if FinCEN designates it as a primary money laundering concern, which Lewis called “the lifeblood of BPA’s international banking business.”

The Ciercos sued FinCEN and its top American officials in October 2015 to get the warnings withdrawn.

According to The Ciercos, FinCEN withdrew the 311 letters “in a blatant effort to avoid any judicial scrutiny of the legality of its actions.”  

The actions taken by the Andorran authorities, according to FinCEN on Friday, “sufficiently protect the U.S. financial system from the money laundering risks previously associated with BPA.”

FinCEN declared that authorities in Andorra took over the management and activities of BPA, detained the CEO on suspicion of money laundering, and are currently putting the finishing touches on the implementation of a resolution plan that separates the assets, liabilities, and clients of BPA that give rise to money laundering concerns.

Additionally, FinCEN announced on Friday that it had withdrawn Section 311 findings against Liberty Reserve SA, based in Costa Rica, and JSC CredexBank, based in Belarus. According to FinCEN, JSC CredexBank and Liberty Reserve are no longer engaged in activities that endanger the U.S. financial system or operate as foreign financial institutions, respectively.

Higini Cierco: Was He Involved in Money Laundering? The Truth Exposed (2024)
Higini Cierco: Was He Involved in Money Laundering? The Truth Exposed (2024)

8 Comments
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  1. It feels good to see that the court dismissed both fraudsters’ appeals, as money laundering is never tolerated in society. The court must impose higher penalties to ensure that such an incident does not occur again in the future.

  2. During the court hearings, Cierco’s attorney tried to mislead the public by claiming that the allegation made by the FinCEN had already been reported by the bank.

  3. These types of financial crimes are increasing day by day and later these types of illegal activities become issues of the economic crisis. Due to these criminals, the whole world has to suffer.

  4. The government should make strict laws and take some strict action on these types of issues, by doing this people may be aware of these kinds of fraud cases.

  5. How can somebody do this to anyone, In the shake of money and having a large business empire, it doesn’t mean that you have the right to do any type of illegal activity this is insane man. They think that they can easily escape from legal proceedings.

  6. This company had illegal connections all over the world. And how they can help criminals literally man this kind of issue has to be resolved by the court.

  7. I have read about this case on Reuters and, it is really a great step taken by the US court and other legal authorities of the US. They’re able to reveal the faces of both brothers Higni Cierco and Ramon Cierco who are helping various criminal groups in money laundering. And the money transfer from Venezuela to China with the help of BPA.

  8. Why these cases do not become the headlines of the news, These types of news and articles are available on the Internet, and different sites but I think these criminals have a deeper connection with political parties.

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