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Financial Crimes

Paraguay investigation reveals more than $52 million in evaded customs taxes

BUENOS AIRES - More than $52 million dollars in evaded customs taxes on Paraguayan imports was identified by the Government of Paraguay as part of an in-depth investigation of money laundering patterns. The results of the investigation, undertaken with support from the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Trade Transparency Unit, were announced by the Stephen Kleppe, ICE Attaché in Buenos Aires, and Carlos V. Rios, Director General of Paraguayan Customs.

The results of the investigation were part of a 15-month report released on May 26, 2009, summarizing the impact of the ICE Trade Transparency Unit's support to the Paraguayan customs investigative unit since its inception in March 2007.

Of the $52,672,464 in unpaid taxes identified, approximately $625,000 has been collected by customs officials in uncontested fines to the importers, approximately $600,000 has been judicially seized, and the remaining amount, more than $51 million will undergo review as part of the administrative process for collection or mitigation of the outstanding amounts for collection by Paraguayan authorities.

In August 2006, the Paraguay National Customs Directorate created the Administrative Coordination for Customs Investigations Unit (CAIA) under the auspices of the Umbral Plan, a U.S. Agency for International Development infrastructure improvement project. In 2007, ICE trained and equipped the CAIA unit to identify money laundering patterns that exploit the trade system.

The primary mission of the ICE Trade Transparency Unit (TTU) is to aggressively target trade-based money laundering. To assist with this mission, ICE began creating TTUs with foreign trading partners. The ICE TTU has partnerships with Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, and Paraguay and most recently Mexico. The United States and its foreign TTU partners exchange trade information to help agents and analysts detect and track money laundering, contraband smuggling, and trade fraud by analyzing data in ways not previously feasible.

The ICE TTU also works with other foreign countries that have expressed an interest in hosting TTUs and enforcing laws against trade-based money laundering and commercial fraud.