By Margarita Solano, Director of Information, Southern Pulse | Correspondents
Until Saturday, Joaquín Guzmán Loera was the most-sought fugitive in the world. An international crime boss, his drug trafficking tentacles extended from México to the rest of Latin America and even Europe and Asia.
Known as “El Chapo”, the leader of the Sinaloa Cartel controlled a criminal empire that stretched across borders. One of his principal allies was Argentina, where he used a fake identity to travel to Buenos Aires in 2007. Official documents show that his wife and step-daughter accompanied him on the trip, where he conceived of new routes for the transport of narcotics. El Chapo allegedly lived in Buenos Aires for eight months from 2011 to 2012. Though the Argentine press does not provide many details, it seems the now-former leader of the Cártel de Sinaloa built a new factory for the production of synthetic drugs there. And his travels in Argentina left prints not only in the capital, but also in Buenos Aires, Córdoba and Santa Fe.
Investigators deduced that Chapo was there to strengthen ties with drug labs on the outskirts of these major cities. They believe his stay in Argentina was part of a plan to set up a network to move drugs from the Southern Cone to the U.S. and Europe.
It is assumed that Guzmán Loera, also laundered money in Argentina, a hypothesis supported by revelations from the Argentine Asociación Antidrogas when it revealed that Chapo had converted Buenos Aires into one of his key operational hubs for international narco-traffic.
Almost nine months after landing in Buenos Aires, the DEA was notified of his presence, and Chapo left Buenos Aires for Uruguay and Colombia, where he also has partners.
Four years ago, Uruguayan authorities would advise that the Cártel de Sinaloa was operating inside its borders. In 2008, Uruguayan police split up a cell that tried to smuggle 142 kilos of cocaine out of the country under Chapo’s leadership.
The Sinaloans hoped to take business away from the Colombians, who controlled the traffic of methamphetamines, cocaine and marijuana in Uruguay. Guzmán’s allies traveled to Montevideo and they made new pacts to share the traffic worth millions.
In 2012, Colombia became aware of Chapo’s presence there. After four years of investigation and with the help of the DEA, the Colombian National Police were able to confiscate 36 properties, 15 businesses, 6 luxury vehicles and a fiduciary bond worth US$15 million, all of it belonging to Guzmán’s criminal enterprise. The seizures were simultaneously made in Medellín, Cali, Bogotá and seven towns in the departamento of Antioquia. Authorities were able to identify the illicit goods thanks to the cooperation of Pedro Antonio Bermúnez Suaza alias “El Arquitecto”, who coordinated Chapo’s fronts in Colombia.
Bermúdez Suaza made a fortune sending shipments of hydrochloric cocaine to Mexico from Cali and Río Negro, as well as from the Islas Margarita in Venezuela.
It was not the first time that Colombia officials seized property of the Sinaloa Cartel in Colombia. In 2010, the Dirección de Investigaciones Criminales confiscated 264 properties worth an estimated US$75 million.
Colombian police revealed that most of the properties were in the name of members of the Cifuentes Villa family. That family has a history of serving as strawmen for mafias in Colombia for years, and partnered with Chapo Guzmán in his cocaine shipping enterprise.
According to the Colombian government, the head of the Sinaloa Cartel and the Cifuentes Villa family are responsible for smuggling at least 30 tons of cocaine to the U.S. in the last three years. They have also been charged with money-laundering.
Guzmán in Mexico and the Cifuentes in Colombia united to smuggle drugs and launder money through major companies with offices in Panamá, Mexico, Brazil and the U.S.
But the synthetic drug industry that Chapo managed from Mexico also linked him to Asia. Various law enforcement seizures in China, Hong Kong and Malaysia show that the Sinaloa Cartel diversified its market to include territory on the other side of the Pacific. Associates of Guzmán Loera traveled to Asia to purchase the precursor chemicals needed to manufacture synthetic drugs. Most of those raw goods, like ephedrine and ethyl phenyl acetate, come from China and Malaysia. In Asia, prices are lower and restrictions on their sale are fewer.
Of 432 Mexicans incarcerated abroad, 392 face sentences for drug-related crimes. In Asia, approximately 22 Mexicans have been sentenced in 14 cities, most of them for drug trafficking.
In Japan, for instance, of nine Mexican inmates, five are in prison for trafficking in illegal substances. In Malaysia, all the prisoners of Mexican nationality are in jail for drug offenses. Even as far as Lebanon, the two Mexicans in custody there are behind bars for drug trafficking.
In Europe, Chapo’s activities alarm authorities. Last year, the European Union issued a formal notification that Mexican cartels had infiltrated the continent and warned that they could bring violence. In a press release, Europol confirmed that worldwide Los Zetas and the Sinaloa Cartel are the main groups that control drug trafficking to the U.S. and Europe.
“Europol compiled information that show Mexican criminal groups are trying to establish themselves as the principal actors in the European drug market,” asserted the agency. According to intelligence gathered by the European police, Mexican cartels are already “coordinating” the movement of cocaine on a global scale, bringing it into European and North American markets. They are also producing and distributing synthetic drugs there and in Asia as well.
Edgardo Buscaglia, an expert in organized crime and security confirmed that El Chapo’s organization is operating in Portugal, Spain, Germany, Italy, Poland, and the Czech Republic.
Now, Joaquín Guzmán Loera has been arrested and the map of international crime is going to shift. It is too soon to know who will take his place atop the list of most-wanted criminal kingpins, but too late to halt his expansive criminal empire.
Words are powerful weapons, be careful how you use them.
Thanks for your post, informative article. Truly amazing, this guy had no boundaries.
In reply to this post by DD
Great find & post. During the Univision presentation they named dropped Cifuentes as a possible snitch since one of their family members just recieved a 5 year sentence in Florida
"Great minds have purpose, others have wishes" - Washington Irvin
Cifuentes' decision to reverse her not guilty plea follows a similar pattern among drug traffickers extradited to the United States and was probably inspired by the offer of a lighter sentence. She may also have offered to provide information on her criminal associates as part of a plea bargain.
The fact that she has accepted the drug trafficking charge and may provide US authorities with information could be troubling for Uribe, who has previously been directly linked to the Medellin Cartel and drug trafficking in US intelligence reports, as well as facing consistent accusations of collusion with the drug trafficking paramilitary umbrella group the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC).
Should it emerge that Uribe was aware of her relationship with his brother and her illegal activities, it will add to calls for an investigation into his criminal associations, something his family members have already been imprisoned for. However, despite the open accusations of AUC leaders, investigations have time and again stopped short of Uribe's door, and it seems unlikely the Cifuentes case will the one to change this.
"Great minds have purpose, others have wishes" - Washington Irvin
|Free forum by Nabble||Edit this page|