A noted Mexican crime analyst and scholar says that the Sinaloa Cartel is buying heroin and precursor chemicals in Afghanistan, in collaboration with Turkish and Indian criminal groups.
Edgardo Buscaglia, an organized crime expert who has taught at the ITAM University in Mexico, said in an interview with El Universal that his fieldwork in Afghanistan indicates that the Sinaloa Cartel does regular business with Asian criminal groups.
He described the cartel as operating increasingly like a multinational company, in which intermediaries in Afghanistan and Turkey outsource the shipping and distribution of heroin to the Mexicans. Using import-export companies as a front, Sinaloan operatives work with middlemen in Afghanistan and Turkey to move heroin to the Western market. The Mexicans then handle the distribution of the drug to U.S. cities like New York and Chicago, Buscaglia said.
"The Mexican groups come to Turkey with established contacts, principally through businesses or companies where they may hold minor positions, or which they themselves establish as providers of illicit goods or services," he told El Universal.
Afghanistan is the world's top producer of heroin, while the Sinaloa Cartel, led by Joaquin Guzman Loera, alias "El Chapo," is one of the world's richest and most wide-reaching cartels, with operations in Central America, South America, the U.S. and Australia.
Buscaglia told El Universal the Sinaloa Cartel is also making inroads in international human and arm trafficking rings. The cartel is likely laundering huge sums of money in Europe, while working with other syndicates in Albania and Russia, exchanging drugs for weapons, he said.
Mexico is another major producer of heroin and the main supplier to the U.S., with an estimated 325 tons of potential opium production in 2009, according to the UNDOC. Mexico ranks third behind Afghanistan and Myanmar in terms of poppy cultivation.