NTR Metals Manager Claims Innocence In South American Gold Smuggling Plot
Juan Pablo Granda, an operations manager at an American metals-refining company, has denied all the charges laid against him in relation to South American multibillion-dollar gold smuggling ring, promising to fight the arrest, Bloomberg reported.
Granda, 35, was arrested on March 15 when he returned to Miami, U.S. from South American jungles, where he was allegedly sent by NTR Metals to buy gold for smelting.
The suspect has been with NTR Metals for five years and despite having a fancy title as operations manager, he was working as a salesman in Peru, according to Granda’s lawyer, Edward O’Donnell IV.
“The compliance department created the paperwork to have the gold change hands,” the news agency quoted O’Donnell as saying. “Juan, as an employee of that very large company, just assumed it was done correctly.”
The U.S. complaint, filed in Miami, incriminates Granda and at least two other NTR Metals employees for buying billions of dollars’ worth of gold from illegal mines in Peru that support forced labor, human trafficking, and environmental devastation, the media report said.
Criminal organizations, such as Peruvian narco-terrorist groups, were able to launder billions of dollars through NTR Metals with this scheme.
The three company employees reportedly encouraged relationships with alleged South American customers, inviting them on tours to the U.S. and telling them that NTR could buy the gold quicker than other companies.
Granda’s attorney said his client was completely surprised by the turn of events.
“He’s perplexed and confused and feels betrayed,” the lawyer said. “He was being arrested for allegations that he had nothing to do with.”
Granda reportedly received a message from NTR Metals telling him to fly home for a meeting. But, upon arrival, he learned that FBI agents showed up at the house he was sharing with his mother.
“She said, ‘Listen, I’ve got all these FBI agents here, they might want to arrest you,”’ O’Donnell stated. “So he got in his car and went to his mom’s house. He talked to the FBI agents, and they arrested him.”
According to the U.S. customs records, NTR’s dealings with Peru’s illegal gold go back as far as five years ago. Between 2012 and 2015, the company reportedly imported $3.6 billion worth of illegal gold. “For all of the billions of dollars’ worth shipped from Latin America to NTR in Miami, NTR sent billions of dollars in wire payments to Latin America from the United States,” Bloomberg cited HSI agent Colberd Almeida as saying in an affidavit dated March 10.
O’Donnell claims that American investigators started zeroing in on Granda after he promised to help a law firm, Jones Day, which was in the midst of conducting an internal investigation into NTR’s dealings with illegal mines.
So far, no charges have been laid against Dallas-based NTR Metals, also known as Elemetal, and it is still unknown whether the company will be put under investigation.