A Panamanian bank has pleaded guilty to money-laundering charges in a case involving drug proceeds for Colombia's Medellin cartel and been ordered to pay a record $5-million penalty, the United States attorney in Atlanta announced Monday.
The pleas stemmed from an investigation that also led to indictments in Los Angeles, Houston, Miami and New York. Trials in the Los Angeles case are scheduled for January, 1990, and May, 1990.
U.S. District Judge William C. O'Kelley in Atlanta sentenced Banco de Occidente of Panama to forfeit $5 million to the United States after accepting the bank's guilty plea. Prosecutors said it was the largest sentence ever imposed by a federal court against a bank for drug money laundering.
Robert L. Barr Jr., U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Georgia, said the judge acted under the 1986 Anti-Drug Abuse Act, which provides that defendants may be ordered to forfeit "substitute" property if the actual drug proceeds cannot be seized. The plea agreement called for dismissal of the case against Banco de Occidente's (Panama) parent bank, Banco de Occidente (S.A.), headquartered in Colombia.
On March 8, federal prosecutors in Los Angeles announced the indictment of 33 wholesale jewelers and associates in the downtown jewelry district on charges of running a $1-billion cocaine money-laundering ring.