The US Treasury Department has imposed sanctions on a Panamanian business tycoon and several of his relatives who allegedly run a conglomerate focused on providing trade-based money laundering (TBML) as a service.

Abdul Mohamed Waked Fares, a Panamanian-Lebanese-Colombian national, and Nidal Ahmed Waked Hatum, are allegedly the ringleaders of the conglomerate of 68 interlinked companies.

TBML focus

The companies have clearly been set up as a comprehensive TBML organisation, providing services to clients that include businesses and individuals involved in illegal activities.

The conglomerate employs various TBML techniques, including false commercial invoicing as well as bulk-cash smuggling, to launder drug money on behalf of international drug traffickers and their networks.

US-Panamanian collaboration

The sanctions have resulted in the conglomerate’s US assets being frozen while Americans are barred from transacting with the companies.

The Panamanian authorities were told about the sanctions designations, and the treasury says that US and Panamanian authorities will coordinate further investigations and actions.

Grupo Wisa, the principal holding company associated with the Wakeds, has denied the allegations, calling them “false and unfounded” in a statement.

Family operation

Amongst those sanctioned are two of Waked Hatum’s brothers, the son of Waked Fares and two lawyers who allegedly provided several services to the conglomerate, including incorporating shell companies, according to the treasury.

It said the sanctions are a result of years of investigation but did not disclose whether or not the so-called Panama Papers played any role in the treasury’s actions.

An organogram of the Waked TBML network naming the sanctioned individuals and companies can be found here.