Thursday, October 10, 2013

Operation Neptune Leaked

When Honduran authorities announced they had taken down over $800 million belonging to Los Cachiros, a drug trafficking organization in Honduras, in conjunction with DEA operatives as part of "Operation Neptune", there was one problem:  Los Cachiros knew the government was coming after them. More than a month before the raids they had disposed of most of their liquid assets.

Operation Neptune was the Honduran name for the effort to seize assets identified as belonging to Los Cachiros in Honduras. In the several days of raids, the operation reportedly seized 64 bank accounts, real estate, businesses, and cars-- and a private zoo and eco-park.

Now we find that someone with knowledge of the planned seizure tipped off Los Cachiros at least a month before the raid, according to the director of the Oficina Administradora de Bienes Incautados (OABI), Humberto Palacios Moya, who told the press:
"They leaked information about Operation Neptune... with at least a month's notice... There was a leak of information, what that means is that the investigative entities of the State did not have... it's what is said all the time, that they are penetrated."

Palacios Moya says the leak wasn't from the police or the anti-narcotics unit because they didn't know about the raid that far in advance. He added
"In my view, it wasn't the Dirección de Lucha, nor the Dirección Nacional de Investigación Criminal, nor the Police, but rather another type of committee that is being formed, neither is it the TIGRES, nor the others (Policía Militar)".

The identity of that "other committee", that La Tribuna called a "Committee of Toads" in a subheadline, may be unclear, but the implication is not: there is an internal leak in the Honduran government that helped Los Cachiros evade most of the financial losses intended by Operation Neptune.

Something similar happened with the attempts to seize the assets of Chepe Handel on April 9th.  Somehow it took the Honduran authorities a week from the time the US Treasury added him to the list of drug kingpins, to their attempts to seize his assets.  In the meantime all the related bank accounts were cleaned out, and houses emptied of belongings, and the family "disappeared", all done in that week between the US Treasury announcement and the Honduran police operation.

Once warned, Los Cachiros reportedly cleaned out bank accounts, removed all the commercial stock from stores, cleaned out their possessions from the houses, and sold off heavy machinery belonging to the construction and mining companies later seized. They sold off all the cattle in their ranching operation. They removed all the business records that would have allowed tracing their suppliers and customers.

They even tipped off a man renting one of the houses that he needed to find a new place to rent because the government was going to seize it.

They couldn't sell the real estate without tipping off the government that they knew of Operation Neptune, so significant, valuable assets were seized. The OABI has not put a final value on the assets seized, and is still making an inventory.

What is clear is that the cash is gone, and that much of the value beyond the real estate was liquidated before the government seized properties.  Palacios Moya put the value of the real estate at around $64 million dollars.

So Operation Neptune leaked about $736 million. But don't expect any government press releases owning up to the mistake.

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