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110 Arrested In El Salvador Over Money Laundering Scheme

Those who defaulted received threats and some had their identities stolen by the loan sharks.


 

 

 

Salvadoran officials on Monday announced the arrest of 110 members of an alleged international money laundering ring operating in the Central American country.

Almost all member of the scheme were Colombian nationals, authorities in El Salvador said, alleging that they had failed to register as lenders and had offered residents loans with interest rates of 20 percent.

Those who defaulted received threats and some had their identities stolen by the loan sharks.

“When victims cannot pay, debt collectors use threats and then pretend to want to help them, telling them that their debt will be canceled if they open bank accounts and give them their access codes,” the police said in a statement.

Since 2021, the network had sent more than $20 million back to Colombia.

The money lent to victims had entered El Salvador in the form of remittances and bank transactions, Attorney General Rodolfo Delgado said.

Such “gota a gota” (“drop by drop”) loan schemes originated with Colombian cartels over two decades ago and operate in several Latin American countries, Justice Minister Gustavo Villatoro said.

In addition to the 105 Colombians, an Argentine, a Guatemalan and three Salvadorans were arrested.