Chile has become a convenient exit point for illegal gold from the Amazon, with Dubai emerging as a consistent destination for such shipments.
Leaders from three groups that are part of a so-called “Gold Cartel” – the Farías, Herrera and González clans – were recently arrested for smuggling over 500 kilograms of gold from Chile to Dubai in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Multiple properties, vehicles, a sailboat, an apartment, and over 500 million dollars worth of currency were also seized.
Of the 35 individuals arrested, only six have faced formalized charges of illicit association, smuggling, tax crimes and money laundering, while the other 29 were released.
The Chile to Dubai route has also been exploited by other traffickers. Most famously, Harold Elías Vilches Pizarro began a highly organized and large-scale gold trafficking operation in Chile in 2013 at just 20 years of age. Among his first contracts was arranging the sale of almost 3 tons of gold to a Dubai-based supplier over 12 months. The sale was potentially worth more than $100 million, and Vilches stood to make up to $6 million in profit. To facilitate exports, Vilches falsified documents to show his company could supply the quantities of gold demanded by the UAE company.