HomeNewsAnalysisMexico Groups Well Placed for Global Meth Market

Mexico Groups Well Placed for Global Meth Market


The recent arrest of four Mexicans allegedly involved in a methamphetamine manufacturing operation in Nigeria points to the increased global popularity of the drug, which has created opportunities for Mexican gangs abroad.

In early March authorities in Nigeria arrested four Mexicans along with several Nigerians, after discovering a substantial methamphetamine laboratory in Asaba, capital of the state of Delta. Nigerian officials also seized 1.5 kilograms of meth in the operation. Terming it a "super lab," Nigerian authorities said it was capable of producing up to 4,000 kilograms of the drug per cooking cycle.

A spokesman for the Nigerian anti-drug agency, known as the NDLEA, said that the Mexicans were technical experts hired to refine the production process at the facility. It is unclear if they are linked to any ongoing criminal enterprise in Mexico, though it would not be surprising if their presence was indicative of a large Mexican criminal group's expansion into West Africa.

This is not the first time that Mexicans have been arrested in foreign operations targeting methamphetamine production. In the most famous case, three Mexican brothers from Sinaloa were arrested in Malaysia for allegedly operating a meth lab. The trio received death sentences despite arguments that they were merely in the wrong place at the wrong time, though the case remains open on appeal.

US officials have also targeted Mexican-run production networks in the northeastern part of the country. Local and federal law enforcement officials told Newsweek in 2015 that Mexican traffickers were working to foment a stronger market of meth addicts in the New York region. With labs located in remote areas of New York and New Jersey, the groups have reportedly partnered with mafia families whose roots in the region's underworld date back more than a century.

InSight Crime Analysis

The stories from Nigeria, Malaysia, and New York indicate that Mexican groups are attempting to carve out a larger role for themselves in the global methamphetamine supply chain, feeding a market that has grown substantially in recent years. The UN reported in 2014 that the total number of global crystal meth seizures soared from roughly 25,000 kilograms in 2008 to more than 100,000 in 2012. Europe's market, though smaller than that of the US, has long been substantial, with the Czech Republic often fingered as a key link in the chain. The UN has also reported that the drug's consumption has recently soared in Oceania and East Asia.

SEE ALSO: Coverage of Criminal Migration

Not surprisingly, the Sinaloa Cartel appears to be at the forefront of Mexican participation in the global methamphetamine industry. Evidence of the organization's preeminence in the meth trade feeding the US market dates back a decade. Zhenli Ye Gon, the Chinese national and naturalized Mexican whose Mexico City mansion was discovered with more than $200 million cash in 2007, allegedly made his mark turning ephedrine into methamphetamine. Ignacio Coronel, Joaquín Guzmán's late lieutenant, made his mark manufacturing meth in the Jalisco region, earning the moniker the King of Ice before his death in a shootout with federal troops in 2010. Mexican authorities have regularly seized shipments of scores of tons of ephedrine and pseudoephedrine in Mexican ports controlled by the Sinaloa Cartel, especially Manzanillo.

Mexican influence in the cocaine trade predates their role in methamphetamine, and in effect, the Mexican groups appear to be seeking to apply their success in the former trade to the latter. In the case of cocaine, organizations like the Sinaloa Cartel, the Zetas, and the Gulf Cartel leveraged their essential role in slipping illicit merchandise past US border controls to become a key global player, working with foreign criminal groups in South America, Europe, and elsewhere around the globe.

The fact that Mexican gangs have managed to establish a toehold in the global cocaine trade, even in flows that don't involve the United States, is in one sense remarkable. The Mexican gangs are not geographically close to production centers in South America, and while they are good at sneaking past US border controls, they have no obvious natural role in sneaking contraband into Europe. Yet Mexican gangs have used their centrality to the US cocaine market, which is the largest in the world, and all the skills they developed in the Western Hemisphere, to amplify their global stature.

SEE ALSO: Mexico News and Profiles

The Mexican groups are well positioned to do the same with methamphetamine, with one additional advantage compared to cocaine: they are world leaders in production, and have been for years. They have shown they can supply consumer demand by linking with local distributors or setting up their own networks, and have demonstrated adaptability in responding to changing regulatory conditions with regard to meth precursors. This experience likely will grant Mexican groups more staying power, should the global appetite for methamphetamine continue to expand.

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.


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.


Related Content

COCA / 17 MAR 2017

In our March 16 Facebook Live videocast, InSight Crime Senior Investigators Deborah Bonello and Héctor Silva Ávalos, and Senior Editor…


Months after the arrest of one of Mexico's most wanted criminals, violence continues to spiral out of control in…


Authorities in Mexico said they will not pursue criminal charges against a former defense minister who US prosecutors accused of…

About InSight Crime


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…


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,…


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…


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.


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…