Colombia: Top NY Warhol art dealer's nephew in laundering charges

A nephew of New York-based art dealer and top collector of Andy Warhol paintings, Jose Mugrabi, is facing charges of laundering as much as USD300m.

Alberto Aroch Mugrabi, who emigrated to Colombia from Israel and built up a textiles business under his uncle’s tutelage until Jose moved to the US in 1982, was arrested last week in Bogotá.

Prosecutors allege that Aroch Mugrabi laundered up to COP700bn over the past 14 years through transactions centered on fictitious textile exports to Venezuela, where he also benefited from the official and parallel exchange rate differential. The proceeds were triangulated via front companies domiciled in Panama and Hong Kong.

Aroch Mugrabi has denied the money-laundering charge and a related conspiracy one, but has admitted an accompanying illicit enrichment charge. He is under house arrest pending trial.

A number of Colombian businesses are long rumoured to have benefitted financially from trades involving fictitious exports to Venezuela.

Aroch Mugrabi had apparently been monitored by US and Colombian authorities during the past two years on the grounds of his ties with Isaac Perez Gubarek Ravinovicz and Henry Gubarek Grimberg, two Colombian businessmen who were designated drugs money-launderers by the US Treasury in 2013 and who were also active in textiles.

Implicated Colombian companies cited by the prosecutor in relation to the charges against Aroch Mugrabi include Blu Fashion (formerly Moda Sofisticada) and Vital Jeans (previously Colmetex), and the business associates Fernando Rivera Cifuentes, Ricardo Munar, and William Morales.

His uncle Jose Mugrabi has not been accused of any related wrongdoing.