HomeNewsAnalysisColombian Officials Arrest Money Launderer for 'Chapo' Guzman
ANALYSIS

Colombian Officials Arrest Money Launderer for 'Chapo' Guzman

COLOMBIA / 11 AUG 2011 BY GEOFFREY RAMSEY EN

Police have arrested a Colombian woman accused of laundering money for the Sinaloa Cartel, shedding light how the powerful Mexican gang tries to disguise the origins of their illicit funds with help from Colombian operatives. 

On Wednesday, Colombian police announced the arrest of Dolly Cifuentes Villa, alias “La Meno,” who they claimed is a close associate of Mexico’s most wanted drug trafficker, Joaquin Guzman, alias “El Chapo.” As El Pais reports, Cifuentes managed 32 business in Colombia and 17 outside the country, which she used to launder money for Guzman’s Sinaloa Cartel.

According to police, Cifuentes and her relatives inherited the money laundering business from her brother Francisco, who was killed in 2007. Francisco was at one point the personal pilot of legendary drug kingpin Pablo Escobar, but spent much of the past decade building up his own criminal enterprise. When he died, Dolly – along with brothers Jorge Milton and Hildebrando Alexander – took over his business, ramping up their money laundering activities. AFP claims that the family has also smuggled around 30 tons of cocaine into the U.S. for the Sinaloans over the past three years, citing data from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA).

Eventually, this began to attract the attention of authorities, and in February U.S., Mexican and Colombian drug officials announced they had begun an international manhunt for the three siblings, which they termed “Operation Mercury.” The operation succeeded in locating the financial assets of the Cifuentes siblings and placing them on the U.S. Treasury Department’s Kingpin List of individuals that have ties to drug trafficking.

With Dolly Cifuentes in custody, it can only be assumed that authorities are closing in on her two brothers. But although authorities are insinuating that the arrest is a major blow to the Sinaloa Cartel’s money laundering activities, this seems rather unlikely. Not only are the Sinaloans the most powerful drug trafficking organization in Mexico, some believe that they carry out operations in as many as 50 countries. In addition to the Americas, they operate in Europe, Northern Africa and even Southeast Asia. Their wide reach gives them ample opportunity to launder their illicit profits.

But the Sinaloa Cartel does not have to look too far to hide its drug money. Like the country’s other drug trafficking organizations, it has used U.S. banks to launder money on more than one occasion, and may even do so systematically. In fact, Mexico's drug trafficking gangs may launder up to $36 billion through its northern neighbor each year, according to some scholars. In March 2010, the federal government sued Wachovia for not applying regulations to $378.4 billion dollars’ worth of transfers from Sinaloa Cartel agents, who deposited the money through a network of currency exchange agencies between 2004 and 2007. As the Guardian notes, the figure is worth a third of Mexico’s annual gross domestic product.

While the arrest of Cifuentes does not spell the downfall of the SInaloa Cartel's money laundering activities, it is indicative of a broader trend in criminal activity in the hemisphere. Just 20 years ago, Colombian cartels were the heavy hitters in the drug trade, and Mexicans were simply paid to transport the drug. The fact that Mexican cartels like the Sinaloans are now using Colombians to launder their money shows how the Mexicans have worked their way up to top of the narcotics industry in a relatively short amount of time.

share icon icon icon

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

What are your thoughts? Click here to send InSight Crime your comments.

We encourage readers to copy and distribute our work for non-commercial purposes, with attribution to InSight Crime in the byline and links to the original at both the top and bottom of the article. Check the Creative Commons website for more details of how to share our work, and please send us an email if you use an article.

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

Related Content

COLOMBIA / 11 FEB 2020

As the Colombian government asks for more time to meet its legal obligation to clear old landmines, the number of…

COLOMBIA / 31 AUG 2012

Colombia sentenced 43 demobilized members of the ERPAC neo-paramilitary group to over four years in prison, adding to concerns that…

COLOMBIA / 12 JUL 2011

Colombian authorities have captured 29 suspected members of neo-paramilitary criminal gang the Urabeños, one of the country’s most…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

Who Are Memo Fantasma and Sergio Roberto de Carvalho?

24 JUN 2022

Inside the criminal career of Memo Fantasma  In March 2020, InSight Crime revealed the identity and whereabouts of Memo Fantasma, a paramilitary commander and drug trafficker living in…

THE ORGANIZATION

Environmental and Academic Praise

17 JUN 2022

InSight Crime’s six-part series on the plunder of the Peruvian Amazon continues to inform the debate on environmental security in the region. Our Environmental Crimes Project Manager, María Fernanda Ramírez,…

LA ORGANIZACIÓN

Series on Plunder of Peru’s Amazon Makes Headlines

10 JUN 2022

Since launching on June 2, InSight Crime’s six-part series on environmental crime in Peru’s Amazon has been well-received. Detailing the shocking impunity enjoyed by those plundering the rainforest, the investigation…

THE ORGANIZATION

Duarte’s Death Makes Waves

3 JUN 2022

The announcement of the death of Gentil Duarte, one of the top dissident commanders of the defunct Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), continues to reverberate in Venezuela and Colombia.

THE ORGANIZATION

Cattle Trafficking Acclaim, Investigation into Peru’s Amazon 

27 MAY 2022

On May 18, InSight Crime launched its most recent investigation into cattle trafficking between Central America and Mexico. It showed precisely how beef, illicitly produced in Honduras, Guatemala…