Authorities in Medellin, Colombia have sent four alleged drug traffickers to prison, among them members of the once-powerful Cifuentes Villa clan, who are accused of working with the Sinaloa Cartel to traffic cocaine out of the country.
The four suspects, who security forces arrested in the cities of Medellin, Pereira (Risaralda) and Pasto (Nariño) on March 25, are believed to form part of a network that trafficked cocaine into the United States through Colombia, Ecuador and Mexico, reported the Associated Press.
According to investigators, the group has ties to the Sinaloa Cartel and is linked to an 8.4 ton cocaine shipment seized in 2009 in Ecuador, which also implicated a former army captain in that country. Authorities also seized 32 kilos of cocaine paste in Pasto allegedly belonging to the group.
The suspects reportedly belong to the structure of Francisco Villa Cifuentes, the former pilot of deceased drug lord Pablo Escobar, who was killed by authorities in 2007. Two of them -- Jaime Alberto Roll Cifuentes and Lucia Ines Cifuentes Villa -- have been on the US Treasury Department's "Kingpin List" since 2011 (see organigram here -- pdf).
The suspects will be processed for intent to traffic narcotic drugs.
InSight Crime Analysis
The Sinaloa Cartel has extensive connections in Colombia, including business ties with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), and there have been signs they are developing a more established presence in the country.
SEE ALSO: Sinaloa Cartel News and Profile
The Cifuentes Villa family was once a well-connected group that collaborated with a variety of drug trafficking organizations over the years, including the Sinaloa Cartel, for whom they have allegedly moved some 30 tons of cocaine. However, the main players in the family's operations have now all been arrested or killed.
One important member of the group, Jorge Milton Cifuentes, arrested in November 2012, was indicted in the United States on charges including ties to the Sinaloa Cartel. Dolly Cifuentes Villa, another key member of the group arrested in 2011 and extradited to the US in 2012, is accused of assisting with the money laundering operations of the cartel's recently arrested leader, Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman.
The current case, while sparse on details, demonstrates that the operations of the Cifuentes Villa clan were not completely dead, particularly if the suspects were responsible for the recently seized cocaine paste.
The Cifuentes Villas are also famous for their connections to Colombia's ex-President Alvaro Uribe: Dolly Cifuentes was the romantic partner of Uribe's late brother. However, it has never been proven Uribe was aware of this compromising relationship, which could link him to both drug trafficking and the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC) paramilitary organization, which his family is also linked with.