Russian Oligarchs Using Colombian Bank Accounts to Avoid Sanctions

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Friday, April 1, 2022
Luz E. Nagle

Several news outlets recently reported that wealthy Russian nationals and crime organizations are paying private individuals a commission to use their personal checking and savings accounts in order to launder money through Colombian banks.  This illegal money transfer, known as “smurfing,” involves depositing money into the banking accounts of “humble and middle-class” people.  The accounts are then accessed through ATMs in Bogotá[1] and Medellín.  The small transactions do not require the completion of banking control documents and are difficult to detect.[2]  Moving money in this manner gives wealthy Russians with ties to organized crime a work-around to the SWIFT (Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunications) banking communication network[3] after the United States, Canada, the EU and the UK removed Russian banks from SWIFT on February 26, 2022, in retaliation for Vladimir Putin’s invasion of The Ukraine.

[1] Videos dejan en evidencia cómo rusos están ingresando dinero a Colombia a través del ‘pitufeo’,, Mar. 27, 2022,

[2] See Tipología de Lavado de Activos, para. 10. ESTRUCTURAR, O HACER “TRABAJO DE PITUFO” O “TRABAJO DE HORMIGA” Delitos de Lavado de Activos (Perú), Socios, June 24, 2014,

[3] Katherine Underwood, The SWIFT Banking System and Why It Matters to Russia,, Feb. 24, 2022, What Is the SWIFT Banking System? Russia Might Get Cut Off (