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9/9/10

I don't know about Black Hotels, but Black Goldmines no worries

 Panoramic view of the Comarsa Mine, La Libertad region, Peru 
(click to enlarge)

Felix Salmon today waxes lyrical about the new John Le Carré novel and excerpts a bit about what Le Carré calls "Black Hotels", a way of laundering money. Salmon asks whether such a money laundering scheme is possible and offers up the novel snippet as context:
‘Would somebody mind telling me what a black hotel is?’ Matlock demanded of the air in front of him. ‘I happen to take my holidays in Madeira. There never seemed anything very black about my hotel.’
Fired by a need to protect the subdued Hector, Luke appointed himself the somebody who would tell Matlock what a black hotel was:
‘You buy a bit of prime land, usually on the sea, Billy. You pay cash for it, you build a five-star luxury-hotel resort. Maybe several. For cash. And throw in fifty or so holiday bungalows if you’ve got the space. You bring in the best furniture, cutlery, china, linen. From then on your hotels and bungalows are full up. Except that nobody ever stays in them, you see. If a travel agent calls: sorry, we’re fully booked. Every month a security van rolls up at the bank and unloads all the cash that’s been taken in room rentals, bungalow rentals, the restaurants, the casinos, the nightclubs and bars. After a couple of years, your resorts are in perfect shape to be sold with a brilliant trading record.’
No response beyond a raising of Matlock’s avuncular smile to maximum strength.
‘It’s not only resorts either, actually. It can be one of those strangely white holiday villages — you must have seen them, trickling down Turkish valleys to the sea — it can be, well, scores of villas, obviously, it can be pretty well anything that’s lettable. Car hire too, provided you can fudge the paperwork.’
Well Felix (and others), this humble scribe isn't so sure about 'Black Hotels' but is more confident of the existence of 'Black Goldmines' such as the one photographed above, the Comarsa mine in Peru owned by the notorious Peruvian narcotrafficking family, the Sanchez-Paredes (who, thanks to their corrupt ties with the APRA party, never seem to get thrown in jail). Here's how the laundering works (well, part of it at least):

1) Produce your cocaine
2) Transport your cocaine across the porous Amazon jungle border between Peru and Brazil
3) Exchange your cocaine at an agreed rate for gold produced by Brazil's "Garimpeiros" the informal gold miners there.
4) Smuggle the gold back into Peru and take it to your mine
5) Add the Brazilian gold to the production pile from the supposedly working mine.
6) Declare all the gold, the Peruvian and the Brazilian product, as "Made In Peru" and run it through the company books.
7) Et Voila! Washed, rinsed, tumble-dried and ironed with a touch of starch in the collar.

For more details, Google "Sanchez-Paredes", "Gold", "Cocaine", "Trafficking".