Nicaragua accuses U.S. missionaries of money laundering

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By LatAm Reports Editor

The Nicaraguan Public Prosecutor’s Office charged three U.S. evangelical missionaries and 13 Nicaraguan collaborators for allegedly belonging to a criminal structure involved in money laundering and issued an arrest warrant for the fugitives, the government entity reported Wednesday.

The defendants are Jacob Britton Hancock, John Britton Hancock and Cassandra Mae Hancock, representatives of the American Mountain Gateway Church, which was closed by the Nicaraguan government last month, following the arrest of 11 of its missionaries in the Central American country.

According to the press release of the Prosecutor’s Office, 11 Nicaraguan missionaries, as well as the legal representative and financial manager of the branch of the church established in Nicaragua, were also charged, as representatives in the purchase of real estate.

The entity said that a thorough investigation was carried out into the alleged illegal activities carried out by the members of the Gate of the Mountain, before making their accusation against the criminal structure composed of Jacob Britton Hancock subjects John Britton Hancock and Cassandra Mae Hancock.

The 13 Nicaraguan missionaries were charged for the same crime of money laundering, property and assets. The Public Prosecutor’s Office did not specify whether the Americans are outside the country, but announced that it turned into judicial arrest warrants for defendants who are at large.

The Puerta de la Montaña church denied last December that it had committed money laundering alongside another evangelical group called Shaking the Nations, as Nicaraguan police maintain. The Mountain Gate has the documentation that shows that all funding has been managed properly, he said.

According to Nicaraguan police, the 16 defendants along with another American, owner of an aviation company and an evangelical group, identified as Bruce Wagner, were part of a money laundering network that had these two Christian organizations as a facade to move large sums of money.

The police claim that Wagner, whose whereabouts are unknown, would have transferred capital to Nicaragua for the obtaining of money, movable and immovable property property and doing business. Wagner and his organization have not responded to the allegations.

According to the official version, Puerta de la Montaña and Sacudiendo Naciones worked in rural areas of Nicaragua with the support of peasants who were then named evangelical pastors. Their goal was to make believe that they helped the people by carrying the word of God, but they were dedicated to acquiring vehicles, farms, houses in residential and doing business, the police said.

Following the official indictment in December, Nicaraguan media released photographs of several U.S. religious posing alongside Nicaraguan police chiefs and officers of that institution participating in religious ceremonies with evangelical leaders, images that were posted on the police entity’s website.

Gate of the Mountain was closed by the Nicaraguan government last December.

A report by the Nicaraguan Human Rights Collective Never Again, also released in December, revealed that Daniel Ortega’s government has closed or dissolved 342 religious organizations, 256 of which were evangelical associations, 43 Catholics and 43 others linked to other churches, as part of the more than 3,500 NGOs closed in the last two years.

Last weekend, Catholic Bishop Rolando Álvarez was released, after being detained for 500 days, and banished on a plane that took him to the Vatican along with 18 other religious who were also in prison.

In an apparent allusion to the expulsion of priests, Vice President Rosario Murillo, Ortega’s wife, said Tuesday that in the country there is “peace” and security because in this Nicaragua hatred has been banished. And he added that evil and perversion are far away, where they must be.

Nicaragua is experiencing a serious political and social crisis that began with protests that erupted in April 2018 and were violently repressed by the police, killing 355 people, more than 2,000 injured, thousands arrested at different times and hundreds of thousands of exiles, according to humanitarian organizations.

This article has been translated from the original which first appeared in El Mundo