Two out of three Florida based businessmen who worked for a major US importer of South American gold have pleaded guilty for their parts in a US$3.6 billion trade-based money laundering (TBML) case.

The scale of the TBML scheme is larger than anticipated when prosecutors earlier this year filed a complaint against three men who worked for NTR Metals in Miami. It then emerged that the value of illegally mined gold they brought into the US market was around US$1 billion (Trade Based Financial Crime, 12 July 2017).

Plea bargain

Samer Barrage and Juan Granda admitted in a plea bargain with Miami federal court that they imported into the US illegally mined gold from Peru and other South American countries.

The third defendant, Renato Rodriguez, has not entered a plea bargain and faces trial in January 2018.

Compliance circumvented

The two defendants that have pleaded guilty travelled extensively to South America and admitted smuggling gold between January 2013 and March 2017 for NTR Metals, a subsidiary of Dallas based Elemetal.

At a court hearing earlier this year it emerged that a company compliance officer warned Barrage, Granda and Rodriguez about buying gold from a Peruvian drugs trafficker, but the NTR employees ignored the warnings and set up accounts at Elemetal for series of Peruvian front companies.

The two defendants circumvented Elemetal’s anti-money laundering compliance programme by buying gold from the trafficker, bribing Peruvian officials and falsifying paperwork.

Elemetal suspended

Neither NTR nor the parent company, Elemetal, has been charged in the case.

But Elemetal has been suspended from buying, refining and selling gold on precious-metals exchanges.