US narrows trafficking case vs suspected Peruvian drug family

Wed Apr 3, 2013 7:17pm EDT

* US, Peruvian accounts had been frozen

* Sanchez-Paredes family linked to trafficking allegations

* Two accounts still in case

By Bernard Vaughan

NEW YORK, April 3 (Reuters) - Federal prosecutors in Manhattan have narrowed a money-laundering case they brought last year over alleged drug trafficking proceeds linked to a Peruvian family.

In October, authorities announced the seizure of $31 million in proceeds in nine U.S. bank accounts, including at Bank of America Corp, Wells Fargo & Co and JPMorgan Chase & Co, plus the freezing of funds in three Peruvian accounts. Banks were not accused of wrongdoing.

By the end of last week, however, prosecutors had dropped claims relating to 10 of the 12 accounts, including all of those associated with the Sanchez-Paredes family's San Simon gold mine, according to court papers and defense lawyers working on the case.

The two remaining accounts, one linked to the United States and one linked to Peru, hold about $3.5 million, according to Lilly Ann Sanchez, a lawyer representing accounts affiliated with the San Simon mine.

These remaining accounts are affiliated with Comarsa, a gold mine run by the family, which according to one of its lawyers hopes for a trial soon.

"Comarsa has made it clear in its court filings that the government's allegations are totally wrong, and that they will disprove those allegations in a trial on the merits," lawyer Abbe Lowell said in an interview on Tuesday.

The U.S. Attorney's Office in Manhattan declined to comment this week.

Prosecutors had accused the Sanchez-Paredes family, which has faced allegations of drug trafficking for more than two decades, of using the accounts to launder drug proceeds as legitimate profits from mining companies and shell companies.

The family, whose business interests range from mining to show horses, has denied involvement in drug trafficking.

Seven accounts, including five U.S. accounts, that were dropped from the case last week held about $2 million, and were dropped after prosecutors got evidence that San Simon was "a completely legitimate, profitable and productive gold mine," Robert Cleary, another lawyer for the family, said on Tuesday.

Prosecutors had in November and February dropped other claims on accounts affiliated with customers of the family's companies, including up to $20.2 million held in a Wells Fargo account, according to court filings.

In a recent advertisement in the Peruvian newspaper El Comercio, members of the family whose accounts were cleared blamed "irresponsible" Peruvian public prosecutors for leading U.S. officials to open the case.

The case is USA v. Any and All Funds on Deposit at Various Bank Accounts, U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, No. 12-07530.

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