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An alleged money laundering scheme, fronted by 10 million bars of soap

Soap bars
Reuters/Nacho Doce
Soap never looked this dirty.
By Roberto A. Ferdman
Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

The moment money launderers get lazy is the moment they get caught. Such is the case with two men who allegedly decided that transferring a lump sum of $9.7 million to buy 10 million bars of soap wouldn’t turn any heads.

Late Thursday, Costa Rican investigators raided the office (Spanish link) of Alvaro Moya, a Costa Rican lawyer, and the hotel room of Agustín Lyon, a Venezuelan national, to gather more evidence about the extent of their suspected money laundering scheme. Authorities were tipped off when a bank in Costa Rica flagged a bank account tied to Lyon’s name for suspicious activity.

Shortly after $9.7 million was deposited into Lyon’s account by government-owned Venezuelan companies for the purchase of 10 million bars of soap, nearly $6 million more flooded in. Because the extra cash came in without an explanatory receipt, and Lyon promptly withdrew $1.2 million of it, the bank  froze the accounts. 

Lyon, as it turns out, works as legal representative for Inversiones Pudong and general manager of Stellca Comercializadora, which are Venezuelan distributors of cleaning products, among other things. Police estimate that he and Moya have laundered as much as $14.3 million dollars since 2007, much of which appears to have been transferred to accounts in the US, Honduras, China and Panama.

Venezuelan authorities have yet to arrest either of the two men. But if guilty, they’ve probably realized that using soap as a money-laundering front doesn’t make the situation any cleaner.

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