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Republic, RBC named in cash-for-Cuba scam
Republic Bank and RBC Royal Bank, two of T&T’s largest and oldest financial institutions, have been named by a prosecutor in the South Florida case in which US$375 million in Medicare fraud and US$31 million in international money laundering and sending US$63 million from the US to Cuba have been alleged.
In the case, USA vs Oscar Sanchez, the US prosecutors are claiming that Cuban-born, US citizen, Oscar Sanchez “knowingly laundered the proceeds of health care fraud” and diverted US$31 million from South Florida to a RBC branch Montreal, Canada from where monies were wired to accounts at a Republic Bank branch in Trinidad and then to a Republic Bank account in Havana, Cuba.
On Monday, Assistant United States Attorney Ron Davidson submitted a nine-page court motion to US Magistrate Jonathan Goodman in a Miami court that Sanchez should be denied bail pending his trial because he was a flight risk. Sanchez was charged last week with one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering.
In the indictment, the US government immediately applied for the forfeiture of assets owed by Sanchez amounting to US$22.3 million or his seven south Florida properties and two cars as substitute assets. The bail-denial motion alleges: “International bank records show that a group of individuals controlling shell companies overseas opened approximately 15 bank accounts with banks in Canada and Trinidad and then used these accounts to transfer over $63 million from the United States into the Cuban banking system.”
It is alleged that these individuals purchased 20 boxes of money orders which were deposited into an account at the Royal Bank of Canada in Montreal, Quebec. After the money orders were deposited into the Canadian banking system, money was immediately wired to several bank accounts at Republic Bank in Trinidad.
“All of the Republic Bank accounts, however, were opened at the branch office of Republic bank in Havana, Cuba and at least two of those accounts had standing instructions to the bank to wire all money immediately from the accounts to the Cuban banking system,” according to the bail-denial motion.
The case against Sanchez claims that the use of money orders to avoid the US authorities proved to be “costly and time consuming,” and that “the cash-for-Cuba operation needed a more efficient method to launder cash into the international banking system.”
It is alleged that “criminal masterminds” recruited recent arrivals from Cuba who were set up as nominee owners of medical companies in South Florida. This scam resulted in claims of US$374.4 million which were submitted to Medicare, the US health insurance programme. Medicare reimbursed the 70 medical companies US$70.7 million, which was deposited into the corporate bank accounts controlled by the companies submitting the fraudulent claims.
The US prosecutors claim that Sanchez provided the owners of the fraudulent medical companies with cash after they provided him with the checks and wires from the companies engaging in fraud. The bank was directed to wire all money immediately from the accounts to the Cuban banking system.
Sanchez was denied bail and is due to reappear in the Miami court. Republic Bank’s spokesperson Anna-Maria Garcia-Brooks was out of the country yesterday and was unable to provide the Guardian with a comment.
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