Florida ‘Boutique’ Linked To South American Gold Smuggling Plot - Report
A posh boutique in Florida has been linked to the same gold smuggling plot as the three former NTR Metals’ employees, Bloomberg reported.
U.S. and Ecuador prosecutors discovered that MVP Imports LLC was used as an intermediary in the plot, where hundreds of millions of dollars were laundered via sales of illegally mined gold from South America.
The connection was made in the federal complaints filed against the three former employees of NTR Metals.
“Virtually all of the gold NTR purchased from Ecuador . . . was routed through an intermediary company, MVP Imports,” stated the U.S. complaints.
Authorities discovered that there were two businesses listed under one address. The first was a stylish home-goods boutique known as Violetas, and the other was MVP Imports — entity implicated in the gold smuggling plot.
Both were registered at 223A Miracle Mile in Miami’s Coral Gables, an area known as an upper-class shopping location.
Jeffrey Himmel, who is a well-known local businessman, was listed as the owner of MVP Imports, while his wife was recorded as the co-founder of Violetas.
Prosecutors described MVP Imports’ role as an importer in the “money-laundering pipeline” that was “masking” NTR’s involvement as the “ultimate purchaser” of the gold, U.S. customs records stated.
MVP Imports also show up in Ecuador’s investigations. One local judge charged eight people with laundering money via MVP Imports. All eight are suspected of exporting more than $550 million of gold to Miami.
“MVP Imports was one of the major buyers of this gold,” Diana Salazar, prosecutor in the Ecuador’s attorney general’s office, told Bloomberg. “This is a huge case that has caused tremendous political and economic upheaval in Ecuador,” she said, adding that MVP Imports is not being investigated in this case.
U.S. prosecutors also did not charge MVP Imports or its owner with any kind of knowing involvement in the gold smuggling case.
But, they have laid charges against the three former NTR employees allegedly involved in the plot: Juan Pablo Granda — NTR’s operations manager, Samer Barrage — head of Miami operations, and Renato Rodriguez — executive sales director for Latin America.
The U.S. complaint, filed in Miami, incriminated all three for buying billions of dollars’ worth of gold from illegal mines in Peru that support forced labor, human trafficking, and cause environmental devastation, according to media reports.
Granda and Rodriguez entered a not guilty plea during court appearances last week, while Barrage, who tried to flee to South America and is now being held without bail, is yet to enter his plea.
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 allegedly 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.
Investigation updates revealed that Dallas-based NTR Metals, also known as Elemetal, is cooperating with the investigation after closing down NTR Metals Miami operations.
Meanwhile, Elemetal Refining LLC has been suspended from trading gold and silver futures on the CME Group’s and the London Bullion Market Association’s exchanges last week.
No charges have been laid against NTR Metals and it is still unknown whether the company is under investigation or not.