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Encrochat News: The Peruvian Charged with Laundering Massive Amounts of Drug Money



Carlos Sein Atachahua Espinoza sometimes showed up to meetings dressed in stained mason’s overalls — not an outfit one might expect from someone charged with laundering money for a transnational drug trafficking organization. He looked more like a man who had been doing work around the house.


But behind this disheveled everyman appearance, the dark-haired Peruvian, 52, was a meticulously cautious — and very wealthy — man, according to Argentinian prosecutors. Those testifying against him say he dealt largely in cash and kept information compartmentalized among the people he led, keeping everything on a need-to-know basis.


He presented himself to prosecutors as a money changer or used-car salesman, and used aliases like “Abraham Levy.” At other times he carried credentials saying he was a fluid engineer with a degree from a Lima university.


For at least 14 years, authorities say, this approach worked. Staying under the radar, Atachahua laundered money for an Argentina-based drug trafficking empire from at least 2006 to 2020, with connections in Latin America, Europe, and North America according to testimony his accountant gave to Argentinian authorities.


Argentinian prosecutors have charged Atachahua with money laundering, and not drug trafficking. However, they have also alleged that he was involved in moving cocaine halfway around the world from its source in South America, often stamped with logos depicting Peruvian suns. Beyond Peru, he linked up with traffickers from neighboring Colombia as well as selling to Italy’s powerful ‘Ndrangheta criminal clan.


As millions flowed in, it’s alleged he used corrupt money exchange houses on both sides of the Atlantic to launder profits made on the European market.


Atachahua was finally arrested on money laundering charges in Argentina in 2020, two years after his longtime accountant, Diego Xavier Guastini, turned against him and began providing information to authorities on his boss.


By that time, Atachahua’s criminal file alleges, his group had used a fortune in dirty money to set up sham companies and buy up millions in Argentinian real estate, including parking lots. Reporters also found various properties and land parcels connected to Atachahua and his family in Peru.


Atachahua has served time in Peru on drug charges, while he and Guastani were both investigated by Uruguayan police for trafficking. Guastini alleged in interviews with Argentinian prosecutors that Atachahua ran a low-visibility global drug trafficking organization that worked with other networks to move cocaine to Europe.


While investigating Atachahua’s suspected money laundering activities, prosecutors found “unjustified economic increases,” which they said were “in line with alleged laundering maneuvers of assets derived from drug trafficking.”


Argentinian prosecutors declined to comment on why Atachahua has not been charged with drug-related offenses or whether he might be, because “it’s an ongoing case.”


 

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