Tuesday, June 25, 2024

ARGENTINA | 12-10-2023 16:12

‘Croatian cueva’ – One of Argentina's biggest illegal trading houses shut down

Nimbus Group, one of the capital's biggest illegal currency traders, shut down by police; Officials say site, headed by 'King of the cuevas' Ivo 'The Croat' Esteban Rojnica, is one of largest operators of 'blue dollar' exchanges in Argentina.

Police operations in central Buenos Aires lasted well into the night on Wednesday (October 11) as authorities raided a host of black market currency traders, locally known as “cuevas.”

A number of trading houses, which buy and sell foreign currency at the parallel 'blue dollar' exchange rate, were stormed by police after Judge Marcelo Martínez de Giorgi authorised searches conducted by the Federal Police and customs agents.

One such operation resulted in the dismantling of Nimbus Group, one of the capital's largest traders which is headed by the so-called “Croatian,” Ivo Esteban Rojnica.

Rojnica is deemed by the government to be the main trader of the 'blue dollar' – a parallel legal exchange rate used for small transactions – in central Buenos Aires.

Sources say his operations spread to the United States (where a service of open offshore accounts may have been run) and Spain, among other countries.

He also had financial agencies in Uruguay, Ciudad del Este and Asunción, Paraguay; and in Bolivia.

Investigators also detected operations and million-dollar deposits in the name of a travel agency used as a cover to transfer dollars abroad.

Police officers went over to Nimbus’ headquarters on Wednesday with a search warrant. The office was closed and empty when they arrived with AFIP tax office officers in tow.

Given that, they had to knock down the door and shortly thereafter Rojnica let them know via his lawyer that he would not go for fear of being arrested.

Inside, officers found a large office full of desks, computers and workstations which were seized. They found evidentiary elements which were also taken into custody and may be of interest for the case. They included notes itemising foreign exchange transactions, banknote counting machines, empty bags of different sizes and paper shredders with destroyed documents, officials said.

Other evidence relevant to the case were girdles to strap notes onto the body. They were similar to those found with Chinese citizens arrested in other operations conducted by the police in Buenos Aires’ Chinatown earlier in the week.

Official sources also found a series of folders which show accounts opened abroad, which will be key as it leaves the country in a position to serve notice on the Fincen, the anti-laundering body in the United States. Similarly, they found documents with transactions in Paraguay, companies in Spain, and transfers to Uruguay and Bolivia.

Many stories are stranger than fiction and Ivo Esteban Rojnica's proves that. As though it is part of a streaming catalogue, his story hides businesses, a Nazi family past and even a million-dollar wedding at La Rural.

Ivo Rojnica did not only own the biggest "cueva" in central Buenos Aires, as speculated by the Government, but the investigation has revealed that the "Croatian" had taken part in opening offshore accounts in the United States and different real estate deals in Paraguay, where he had bought million-dollar properties.

The big question how he managed to moved such large amounts of money from one country to another. According to sources from the investigation, the manoeuvre might have been through Tower Travel, a travel agency that apparently served as a cover to move the "card dollar", known in central Buenos Aires as a "financial loop", which turned him a 20-percent profit in dollars for every transaction.

The businessman's grandfather, also called Ivo Rojnica, arrived in Argentina in 1947, via Austria. "He was escaping Tito's socialist regime in Yugoslavia", said relatives and friends. Known in Buenos Aires as “Juan”, he went into the textile business with great success.

However, in June 1994, the situation changed. The Wiesenthal Centre -an organisation looking for criminal fugitives from World War II- was pushing for the full publication of records of Nazis in Argentina. An official report estimated that 60 Croatian Nazis had entered Argentina since 1947, shortly after the regime instituted by Hitler in Croatia.

In 1941, Nazi Germany had the cooperation of the Ustasha group in Croatia. It was an alliance of fascist and nationalist militants claiming independence.  Ivo Rojinca (the grandfather) was a part of that group.

As reported by the Wiesenthal Centre, there is no proof that he has killed with his own hands, but there is evidence that he "signed deportation orders" of Jews and Serbians.



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