Juan Ramón Collado, known in Mexico as the power attorney for having in his client portfolio, among others, the former president Enrique Peña Nieto, of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), was able to act as a “front man” for third parties in Andorra, where it moved 120 million dollars (107 euros) between 2006 and 2015 through 23 accounts in the Banca Privada d’Andorra (BPA). This is supported by a confidential report from February 2020 from the police of this European country to which EL PAÍS has had access.
The document indicates that Collado received in Andorra – a country shielded until 2017 by bank secrecy – 90 million dollars (74 million euros) through transfers from accounts of the Mexican exchange house Tiber and trust companies such as the Fidemont group. Before landing in the lawyer’s BPA accounts, this money “was transferred to the exchange houses.” A fact that proves, according to the investigators, that Collado “had large amounts of cash.”
Peña Nieto’s lawyer resorted to exchange houses and trust companies as a screen to make it difficult to trace the origin of the funds in the framework of a money laundering operation, according to investigators from the Criminal Investigation Unit 3 of the Andorran Police.
The investigations open the door, even, to which part of the 90 million dollars that the lawyer entered the BPA in this way “are from Collado or a third party for whom [el letrado] I would act as a figurehead (interposed person) ”. And they question the legality of the money. “A part of the funds received [en la BPA por Collado] it could have its origin in criminal activity, taking into account the nature of the person under investigation and their influences in the spheres of power ”, the investigators add.
Along with Peña Nieto, Collado’s client portfolio has included figures such as Pemex union leader Carlos Romero Deschamps; the former governor of Quintana Roo, the PRI Mario Villanueva; Raúl Salinas de Gortari, businessman and brother of former Mexican President Carlos Salinas de Gortari.
An exchange house as a millionaire screen
The Andorran Police assures that Collado has not contributed to the laundering investigation that since 2015 the justice of the principality has kept against him the receipts of his transactions through exchange houses. A key point to justify the origin of the money that the lawyer entered in Andorra, since exchange houses are obliged to issue a receipt to their clients.
As an example of this mechanism of opacity, the police report indicates a transfer of $ 372,349 (305,946 euros) in June 2013 from one of the instrumental companies of the Tiber exchange house in BPA to a Collado account controlled by a Dutch firm . After the operation, the then head of the BPA in Mexico, Joan March Masson, instructs a worker from this bank by mail to send this money to an encrypted Collado account to “hide the true beneficiary of the funds.”
“The investigated person [Collado], taking into account his profession as a criminal lawyer and, at the same time, financial, he is fully aware of the international regulations on money laundering ”, specify the agents.
EL PAÍS has tried unsuccessfully to obtain Collado’s version. The lawyer declared in 2016 before the Andorran judge that the bulk of the money that entered the BPA between 2006 and 2015 came from the profits of a chain of pawnshops that his father founded in the nineties. A business that had reported – as he explained to the magistrate – interest income of 84 million dollars (75 million euros) in 14 years.
The Andorran Police recall that pawn shops are businesses often used for laundering. A thesis that is also supported by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF).
Thus, one of the shareholders of the Tiber exchange house, the Mexican Carlos Djemal Nehmad, was sentenced in 2018 by the Court of the Southern District of New York to six years in prison for a fraud of 20 million dollars through the refund of taxes. through a fictitious corporate network in the US and Mexico.
Collado has been under investigation in Andorra for money laundering since 2015, when the bank where he deposited his millionaire fortune, the BPA, was intervened for allegedly laundering funds from criminal groups. The investigations against the lawyer came to a halt in October 2018, when the Andorran judge was forced to provisionally file the case after receiving a report from the Attorney General’s Office (PGR) of Mexico – which is what the Prosecutor’s Office was called then. – which justified the origin of the fortune of this powerful lawyer.
The document, prepared in the last section of the Peña Nieto government, called for the “non-exercise of criminal action” [contra el letrado de Peña Nieto] in Andorra. This is an operation under suspicion, after EL PAÍS revealed that the Mexican Prosecutor’s Office provided Andorra with false information to exonerate Collado. The lawyer also counted on hiding his funds in the principality with the help of executives from the BPA.
The arrest of the lawyer in Mexico in July 2019 – already under the presidency of Andrés Manuel López Obrador – for money laundering and organized crime, reopened the money laundering investigations in Andorra. Six days before his arrest in Mexico, the lawyer transferred 10.5 million from Andorra to a BBVA account in Madrid.