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 / 16 NOV 2016

Panama's forest areas are seeing a growth in illegal mining, raising the question of which criminal organizations are behind these…

COLOMBIA / 8 APR 2011

An article in Cali’s El Pais looks at how the FARC are increasingly using militia networks, rather than…

COLOMBIA / 15 FEB 2012

With an alleged heir to the Medellin mafia found dead, dumped outside a Venezuela hospital, it may be that Urabeños,…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

Oceans Pillaged in Central America and the Caribbean

5 AUG 2022

Last week, InSight Crime published the first installment of a nine-part investigation uncovering the hidden depths of Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing in Latin America. The first installment covered Central America and…

THE ORGANIZATION

Venezuela’s Tren de Aragua Becomes Truly Transnational

29 JUL 2022

This week, InSight Crime published a deep dive into the total control that Venezuelan mega-gang, Tren de Aragua, has over the lives of those it smuggles between Venezuela and Chile…

THE ORGANIZATION

Turkish Traffickers Delivering Latin American Cocaine to Persian Gulf

15 JUL 2022

Last week, InSight Crime published the second half of an investigation piecing together the emerging role of Turkish cocaine traffickers in supplying Russia and the Persian Gulf, which are among…

THE ORGANIZATION

Turkey as a Lynchpin in European Cocaine Pipeline

8 JUL 2022

InSight Crime is extending its investigation into the cocaine pipeline to Europe, and tracking the growing connections between Latin American drug traffickers and European criminal organizations. This led us to…

THE ORGANIZATION

Memo Fantasma Coverage Gets Worldwide Attention

1 JUL 2022

Guillermo Acevedo, the former Colombian drug lord and paramilitary commander better known as Memo Fantasma, may soon be allowed to leave prison. Since first revealing the identity of Memo Fantasma…