May 20, 1998


The Treasury and Justice Departments today announced additional arrests in Operation Casablanca, the largest drug money laundering case in U.S. history. The undercover operation led by the U.S. Customs Service linked some Mexican banks and banking officials with the laundering of Juarez and Cali cartels' drug profits, and the most recent arrests extend the operation's reach to Venezuelan banks and banking officials.

A fourth indictment was unsealed late Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles charging five money launderers. The individuals, Venezuelan nationals, were charged with laundering $9.5 million in illegal drug proceeds through four Venezuelan banks Banco Del Caribe, Banco Industriale de Venezuela, International Finance Bank and Banco Consolidado.

Two of the five individuals named in the indictment were employees of the banks used to launder the drug money. Esperanza de Saad served as the executive vice president for the Banco Industriale de Venezuela agency branch in Miami, and Marco Tulio Henriquez served as a vice president at Banco Del Caribe in Caracas.

Today, Customs agents in Miami arrested Carmen Salima Yrigoyen. Customs arrested Esperanza de Saad in Miami yesterday. On Monday, agents arrested Carlos Izurietta Valery in Los Angeles, and the other two individuals named in the indictment, Roberto Vivas and Marco Tulio Henriquez, are believed to be in Venezuela.

Since Monday, Customs has seized more than $52 million in domestic bank accounts held by the Mexican banks, Mexican defendants and Colombian defendants and seized $1.3 million in cash. The United States is also seeking the forfeiture of $23 million in foreign accounts in 18 countries. Also, since Saturday, 48 individuals have been arrested bringing the total arrests to 160. Customs expects the arrests to reach nearly 200 as part of this investigation.

As previously announced, the Department of Justice will file civil penalty complaints against any financial institutions whose employees were indicted.

Both Treasury and Justice have been in contact with their Mexican counterparts to discuss Operation Casablanca. The Mexican government has committed to working with the United States to continue to combat money laundering.

Copies of the unsealed indictments for this case may be found at in the "What's New and Hot" section under "New Additions."