HomeNewsBriefColombia Drug Mules Swallowing Dirty Money for Transport
BRIEF

Colombia Drug Mules Swallowing Dirty Money for Transport

COLOMBIA / 7 DEC 2018 BY PARKER ASMANN EN

Authorities in Colombia dismantled several international money laundering organizations that employed human drug mules who swallowed dirty money for transport from Mexico, providing further details on the relationship between criminal organizations in both countries. 

In joint operations carried out between Colombia’s National Police and the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE) in the cities of Bogotá, Medellín, Bucaramanga, Manizales, Pereira and Neiva, authorities arrested 27 suspected members of four transnational money launder organizations for transporting money from Mexico into the South American nation.

The money was disguised in latex capsules and digested, Colombia's Attorney General’s Office announced December 6.

Each of the latex capsules had at least five $100 dollar bills inside. On average, one individual can consume between 80 and 120 capsules, transporting close to $40,000, according to authorities. Larger individuals can carry up to $75,000 in their bodies.

SEE ALSO: Coverage of Money Laundering

Authorities say that Mexican cartels used the so-called “mules” to send money to Colombian criminal groups they're working with to traffic cocaine.

The alleged leader of one of the networks, Wílmar Hernández Sánchez, alias “Pinocho” or “Profe,” was among those arrested in the operation. Authorities say he’s made some 250 trips between Colombia and Mexico.

The head of one of the other dismantled networks -- who made 180 trips to Mexico, Ecuador, Chile, El Salvador, Peru and the United States to move more than 10 billion pesos (around $3 million) since 2015 -- recruited informal workers or unemployed individuals to travel to other countries to transport up to $10,000 back to Colombia in each trip, the limit allowed by Colombia’s National Directorate of Taxes and Customs (DIAN).

InSight Crime Analysis

The recent bust in Colombia further demonstrates the links between Mexico’s drug cartels and Colombia’s criminal groups, and suggests that these groups are looking for new ways to transport their criminal proceeds as cocaine production soars to levels never seen before in the country’s history.

Criminal groups in Colombia and Mexico have had a strategic drug trafficking partnership for decades. But after the demobilization of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia - FARC) in 2016 followed by the gradual decline of the Urabeños, the Mexicans have had to forge new alliances.

SEE ALSO: Colombia News and Profiles

As a result, Mexican criminal groups are establishing more of a presence in the country to inspect cocaine production and ensure quality. In 2016, the son of jailed Sinaloa Cartel kingpin Joaquín Guzmán Loera, alias “El Chapo,” visited the city of Medellín protected by the Oficina de Envigado crime group in part to oversee two cocaine labs in the city’s rural outskirts.

The bust also suggests an evolution in techniques used to transport drug proceeds. Criminal groups throughout Latin America have long employed mules who swallow drugs like cocaine for transport into other countries. The region's criminal groups may now be using the same technique to transport their dirty cash back home.

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

COCA / 12 JUL 2019

The south of Putumayo has re-emerged as Colombia’s second-largest coca producing center, following a period of demobilizations and crop substitutions…

ARGENTINA / 5 AUG 2019

Luxurious vehicles seized from criminals in Mexico and Argentina are being handed over for use by police forces, despite their…

MEXICO / 3 MAY 2011

Mexico City Mayor Marcelo Ebrard stated at a conference that the capital has a low level of corruption in its…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

Apure Investigation Makes Headlines

22 OCT 2021

InSight Crime’s investigation into the battle for the Venezuelan border state of Apure resonated in both Colombian and Venezuelan media. A dozen outlets picked up the report, including Venezuela’s…

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Tackles Illegal Fishing

15 OCT 2021

In October, InSight Crime and American University’s Center for Latin American and Latino Studies (CLALS) began a year-long project on illegal, unreported, unregulated (IUU) fishing in…

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Featured in Handbook for Reporting on Organized Crime

8 OCT 2021

In late September, the Global Investigative Journalism Network (GIJN) published an excerpt of its forthcoming guide on reporting organized crime in Indonesia.

THE ORGANIZATION

Probing Organized Crime in Haiti

1 OCT 2021

InSight Crime has made it a priority to investigate organized crime in Haiti, where an impotent state is reeling after the July assassination of President Jovenel Moïse, coupled with an…

THE ORGANIZATION

Emergency First Aid in Hostile Environments

24 SEP 2021

At InSight Crime's annual treat, we ramped up hostile environment and emergency first aid training for our 40-member staff, many of whom conduct on-the-ground investigations in dangerous corners of the region.