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Rosa Emilia Rodríguez
Rosa Emilia Rodríguez (Juan Luis Martínez Pérez)

The U.S. Attorney for the district of Puerto Rico Rosa Emilia Rodríguez said yesterday that the island has not recorded any case of money laundering linked to a terrorist organization, and assured that there are mechanisms to detect such cases.

Rodríguez acknowledged that for many years Puerto Rico has been considered an area where attempts to launder money from fraud or drug trafficking organizations may occur.

However, she stressed that they have mechanisms to detect them and intervene immediately, even if any activity were linked to a terrorist organization.

She recalled that recently they have readjusted initiatives aimed at joining forces with several law and enforcement agencies to identify money laundering.

Based on this - and on coordination efforts between other agencies and institutions - Rodríguez disagreed with the European Commission's decision to include Puerto Rico in the list of 23 countries and jurisdictions with deficiencies in strategies to prevent money laundering and terrorism financing. 

"We have been surrounded by drug trafficking cases and obviously money laundering is a permanent component of drug trafficking, but never terrorism.” She added that she objects to the European Commission's statement that there are deficiencies in solving the problem. "We are identifying the problem and we are fighting it," she said.

"I do not think we can say that a risk entails a reality," she said. "Under the United States justice system, we have mechanisms that offer us a series of different investigative resources, which are at the international level," she said.

"They are detection mechanisms that we share with the whole world and that help us detect risks of money laundering, terrorism, drug trafficking or fraud, to prosecute them immediately," she said.

Meanwhile, Iván Arvelo, director for Puerto Rico of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE-HSI), said they have found an increasing number of important financial crimes. These crimes often result from the needs of drug trafficking organizations to launder large amounts of criminal resources through legitimate financial institutions and investment vehicles.

He explained that, due to this situation, they are working on an initiative they have called "Cornerstone", which "detects and closes down weaknesses within U.S. financial, trade and transportation sectors that can be exploited by criminal networks." 

Arvelo said that entities responsible for enforcing the law share typologies and methods to detect criminal activities with companies and industries that administer those systems that terrorists and criminal organizations seek to exploit. "This exchange of information allows the financial and commercial community to take precautions to protect themselves from exploitation," he added.

"In addition, large-scale corruption by public officials in other nations, particularly developing nations, also represents a significant threat to public confidence and governments infrastructure," he added. "In many cases, public corruption exists in unstable environments where criminal and terrorist organizations flourish."

The federal court is ready

In reacting to the European Commission announcement, Gustavo Gelpí, presiding judge of the Federal District Court of Puerto Rico, assured that his court is prepared to deal with any case of money laundering, including any element related to terrorism.

"It's news for me but, obviously, it's something that requires for everyone to keep their eyes open," Gelpí told El Nuevo Día.

He added that all federal anti-terrorist and anti-money laundering laws are applicable in Puerto Rico. “Whether it is terrorism or money laundering for terrorism, the court has mechanisms to deal with it," he said.