Alleged Head of US/Cuba Money Laundering Network Arrested in Havana / Juan Juan Almeida

Juan Juan Almeida, 13 February 2018 — A Cuban businessman residing in Ecuador was arrested in Havana, suspected of being the ringleader of a criminal gang operating between Cuba, Panama and the United States, engaged in swindling, extortion, human trafficking and money laundering, Marti News has confirmed.

Alexis Castro Maspoch, 34, is being held in pretrial detention at Valle Grande Prison, located in the Havana’s Arroyo Arenas municipality, and could be charged with illicit enrichment, smuggling and bribery.

He was prevented from leaving Cuba last August and days later the authorities proceeded to arrest him. At the time of his arrest he had Ecuadorian legal residence and a US visa, valid until 2022.

Castro Maspoch was born in Havana on 10 August 1983, studied at Vladimir Ilich Lenin Pre-university Vocational Institute of Exact Sciences, and later abandoned his engineering studies at the Technological University of Havana, known as CUJAE.

According to the Ministry of the Interior’s investigative file on Castro Maspoch, he traveled too frequently from Havana to Panama City, Quito and Miami to contact people and buy merchandise. He is accused of bribing officials and functionaries of the General Customs of the Republic of Cuba (AGR), who allowed him to violate customs regulations.

In order to import large quantities of household appliances and containers with household items to Cuba, the detainee handed out gifts to a legal adviser of the AGR. The official, who is also under arrest, has not been able to account for her sudden increase in assets, sources related to the case report.

The group led by Castro Maspoch, known as El Millonario, was also engaged in trafficking people, exporting currency and public securities in violation of the law, and money laundering.

Part of the profits of the lucrative business was used to purchase properties in Cuba to sell to foreigners and to invest in private businesses such as restaurants and rental houses. Among the properties sold by the group are properties located on Avenida 5-B, between 66 and 62, in Miramar, and another on Avenida 33, between 30 and 32, in Havana’s Playa neighborhood.

“They sell Panamanian visas for $4 thousand dollars per person. Then, in addition to the costs for the visa and travel paperwork, they give their victims cash which they must take out of the island, and then later return to them ‘cleaned of dust and straw’,” one of victim of the operations reported, remaining anonymous for fear of reprisals.

The witness related how the money was transferred through a financial framework and then — after the charging of a commission — was delivered in Miami through a Wells Fargo bank account.

Even though he is under arrest, Castro Maspoch has managed to overcome the restrictions on his freedom by bribing the authorities in Valle Grande prison, who are allowing him to continue to operate his business from the visiting room.

The United States and Cuba held a technical meeting in Washington on Monday, to address preventing and fighting against money laundering. Together, they analyzed regional trends, experiences in confronting this crime and “the next steps to be adopted to advance bilateral collaboration on this matter.”