This article first appeared on Infobae on October 16, 2021.
The Champlain Towers residential complex, which collapsed in June in Surfside, Miami-Dade County (Florida), was allegedly built to launder drug cartel funds in the 1980s.
According to an article in USA Today, as a result, the developers of the project took shortcuts that produced critical defects that could have caused the building to collapse. The newspaper’s investigation revealed some details about the construction of the Champlain Towers building in Miami, after several weeks of reviewing deeds, inspection records, and owners’ minutes.
By that time, the suburb of Surfside was establishing itself as one of the most exclusive places in the region, and Miami was in full expansion. “The era we’re talking about is when Miami suddenly came out of the ashes. So how do you go about meeting that demand? You cut corners, you put paper clips on the roofs, you bribe the inspectors,” said Jorge Valdes, who although he did not participate in the construction of Champlain Towers did participate in a dozen other buildings, as the person in charge of laundering money for the Medellin Cartel, as quoted by the U.S. newspaper.
“You wanted to invest in real estate as fast as possible because the money was flowing. We could buy from any building inspector at any time, there were no strict codes, there were no money laundering laws,” he recounted in the interview.
It is known that due to construction flaws, the building suffered flooding in 1981 and garage roof failures in 1996. In 2016, the building shook due to contact from an adjoining building, causing a resident to fall off a treadmill. It eventually ended in the tragic collapse of one of the towers last June that left 98 people dead.
In addition, many of those who purchased units in the condo did so through shell companies housed in countries such as Panama and the Netherlands Antilles, both notorious for laundering drug money through anonymous corporations. Other purchases were made entirely in cash and overpriced.
USA Today’s investigation could be a first approximation of the answer to what led to the collapse of the twelve-story, 136-unit Champlain Tower. For the moment, there is only talk of structural failures, of years of leaks in the pool, of corrosion by the sea and the wind, but no one is talking about the origin of these negligences.
While the exact cause of the collapse remains unclear, the survivors face other problems. The initial estimate is that the money needed to compensate the survivors and the families of the victims would amount to one billion dollars. However, nothing seems to indicate that anyone will ever come close to that figure.
The building’s insurance policy was poorly written. Therefore, in insurance payments, the victims and survivors will receive close to $50 million, although it is not known when.
In addition, there are the personal policies that everyone had on their apartment. Some companies such as State Farm (the largest in the area) have already indicated that the company’s policy is not to make payments until there is a confirmed cause of loss. The victims there are in a vicious cycle.
The other possible source of income is the sale of the land. It has just been learned that an anonymous investor has so far offered $120 million for the vacant land. It is unknown what the buyer wants to do with the land. It is also unclear what percentage of the sale would go to the victims.