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El Salvador Arrests More Than 100 Colombians in Financial Scheme

SAN SALVADOR, July 17 (Reuters) – Salvadoran police arrested more than a hundred Colombians for their alleged involvement in operating a microfinancing scheme that laundered money from drug running and gang activities, security officials said on Monday.

The criminal group reportedly made loans, using funds obtained illegally, to individuals and small businesses with 20% interest, according to the officials.

The government of President Nayib Bukele has taken a hard line on gangs since last year, jailing around 70,000 suspects in a mass dragnet which has also led to a sharp reduction in violent crime.

The anti-gang push, denounced by many rights groups, has nonetheless given Bukele sky-high approval ratings ahead of his re-election bid early next year.

Attorney General Rodolfo Delgado told reporters at a press conference that when victims of the financial scheme could not repay, the group would intimidate them into giving over their bank account information, which he said they used to move money abroad.

Some $20 million in money linked to drug trafficking gangs is estimated to have been sent to Colombia since 2021 under the scheme, added Delgado.

“Colombians are our brothers,” Bukele wrote in a Monday post on Twitter. “However, these people will have to face Salvadoran justice.”

Colombia’s foreign ministry said it was in talks with its embassy and consulate in El Salvador over the arrests, but did not offer further comment on the accusations facing the Colombian nationals.

Three Salvadorans, a Guatemalan and an Argentine were also arrested in the sting, according to a breakdown of nationalities provided by the president’s office.

Source : REUTERS