BOGOTA – A prominent Panamanian businessman held since May in Colombia and wanted by the United States for money laundering was extradited Thursday to the US, officials in the Andean nation said.
Nidal Waked was handed over by Colombia’s National Police to US Drug Enforcement Administration agents in Bogota, Col. Ricardo Blanco told EFE.
Waked will appear before the US District Court for the Southern District of Florida on charges of money laundering, the head of the National Police’s Directorate of Criminal Investigation and Interpol (Dijin), Gen. Jose Luis Vargas, said.
Waked’s defense team in Colombia, headed by attorney Ricardo Calvete, had asked Colombia’s Supreme Court in August to expedite his client’s extradition to the US so he can exercise his right of legal defense.
The lawyer said then that Waked had no ability in Colombia to contest the accusations leveled against him by US authorities.
Colombia’s high court on Aug. 26 approved the extradition of the 44-year-old Waked, who had been held at the La Picota prison in Bogota since being arrested there three months earlier.
On May 5, the US Treasury Department named Abdul Mohamed Waked Fares and his nephew, Nidal Waked, as “Specially Designated Narcotics Traffickers,” accusing them of co-leading a Panama-based drug money-laundering network.
It said then that 68 companies were linked to the network, which used “trade-based money laundering schemes, such as false commercial invoicing; bulk cash smuggling; and other money laundering methods to launder drug proceeds on behalf of multiple international drug traffickers and their organizations.”
Among the Waked family companies on the US sanctions blacklist are Grupo Wisa, a holding company for real-estate firms and luxury goods retailers; Balboa Bank and Trust; and two newspapers in Panama.
The Waked group’s businesses in Colombia included the well-known La Riviera luxury goods chain, which authorities in that country have shuttered.