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Mexican official accused of moving money into Bermuda accounts

A Bermuda investment company “is complying fully” with a seizure order for $2.8 million filed on Tuesday by the US government.

The action states that the “property subject to forfeiture” are funds on deposit at Old Mutual of Bermuda Limited. It reads: “As of September 16 2013, defendant property consisted of $2,762,066 on deposit at Old Mutual of Bermuda, Ltd, Contract Number CX4011696, held at Old Mutual, Ltd, located at Cumberland House, sixth floor, 1 Victoria Street, Hamilton 11, Bermuda HM ...”

The money is alleged to be tied to a scheme involving a former interim Governor of Coahuila, a Mexican border state. Jorge Juan Torres Lopez has been implicated in a plan to move illicitly gained funds through the US and into Bermuda, according to the filing in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas, Corpus Christi Division.

Also implicated in the scheme is Hector Javier Villarreal Hernandez, a former Coahuila Secretary of Finance who faces charges of obtaining fraudulent loans in Mexico amounting to approximately $250 million. He fled to the US and is currently a fugitive.

The filing states: “Torres and Villarreal opened the accounts after Torres and Villarreal had a joint meeting (where both Torres and Villarreal were present) in Mexico in 2008 with bankers from JP Morgan Chase. The purpose of the meeting in Mexico among Torres, Villarreal, and the bankers was to establish multiple offshore annuity accounts in Bermuda. One of those accounts is Defendant Property. Also, Torres opened an account at Inter National Bank in McAllen, Texas in October 2007. During the meeting in Mexico, Torres specifically asked one of the JPMorgan Chase bankers if the wire transfers could be deleted from the system, so that no transfer would be seen going from Mexico to Bermuda through the United States.”

The case is connected to an early 2013 lawsuit the US Government launched to seize another tranche of funds, these ones on deposit at The Bank of NT Butterfield, which totalled some $2,275.544.41.

At the time, Butterfield said the money was invested at the bank through another locally regulated financial services company, and at no time had Mr Villarreal or any of his family members maintained accounts with the bank.

Head of Corporate Affairs for Old Mutual plc William Baldwin-Charles, responding from London, said: “We can confirm that we recently received a seizure order regarding one of our policyholders' assets and are complying fully. This is not a civil lawsuit. The policy was arranged through a recognised distributor (JP Morgan Chase), who was responsible for the initial vetting of the customer's identity, residence and source of wealth.

“Old Mutual Bermuda has a number of procedures aimed at ensuring full compliance with AML (anti money laundering) regulations that continue to be enhanced at every opportunity.

“As soon as we became aware of the allegations against the client (in August 2012), the client's funds were frozen pending direction from the Bermudan authorities. We have cooperated fully with relevant local and US authorities throughout this process and will continue to do so.”

Responding to questions, a Bermuda Monetary Authority spokesman said: “The Authority has an ongoing programme of enhancing AML compliance throughout the jurisdiction, to ensure as far as possible that money laundering does not occur through Bermuda-based financial institutions. If warranted, matters that may indicate non-compliance are addressed under the AML supervisory regime. ”

Former interim Governor of Coahuila Jorge Juan Torres Lopez

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Published September 26, 2013 at 8:34 pm (Updated September 27, 2013 at 1:43 pm)

Mexican official accused of moving money into Bermuda accounts

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