Authorities in Colombia have captured a man they said was the main Argentina-based connection for Colombian organized crime, who is accused of laundering huge amounts of money on behalf of several major crime bosses.
On January 15, Colombian prosecutors and international police agency Interpol coordinated the arrest of Alejandro Gracia Alvarez, alias "Gato Seco," in capital city Bogota, according to a press release from the Attorney General's Office. Gato Seco allegedly formed part of a criminal organization dedicated to drug trafficking and money laundering in the Southern Cone region.
Gato Seco got his start in 2003 when his brother-in-law, Juan Carlos Ramirez Abadia, alias "Chupeta," a leader of the now-defunct Norte del Valle Cartel, sent him to Argentina to found several front companies and buy up properties, according to a US agent interviewed by El Tiempo. Over the years, Gato Seco allegedly handled the Argentinean financial operations of at least a dozen major Colombian crime bosses, including Ignacio Alvarez Meyendorff, Daniel "El Loco" Barrera, Henry de Jesus Lopez, alias "Mi Sangre," and Luis Caicedo, alias "Don Lucho" (pictured below, left to right).
Using contacts in Colombia's migration agency and a network of front companies, Gato Seco allegedly facilitated the entry of Colombian drug traffickers into Argentina, provided the crime bosses with fake identity documents, and laundered their money, reported El Tiempo. Gato Seco laundered over $900 million in drug trafficking proceeds just for Alvarez Meyendorff alone, according to the Attorney General's Office.
Gato Seco is wanted in Argentina on various charges, including drug trafficking and possession, money laundering, and carrying weapons.
InSight Crime Analysis
Gato Seco has allegedly worked with a large number of Colombia's major crime bosses, crossing criminal lines to conduct financial operations for leaders from rival groups. His capture could put several different criminal organizations at risk, should Gato Seco decide to collaborate with authorities and share information about hidden criminal assets.
Argentina has long been a favorite hideout for Colombian criminals and a hub for laundering their dirty cash. Argentina's role as a drug transit nation and its lucrative domestic cocaine market make the country an attractive base of operations for foreign drug traffickers, who can use the proceeds from local drug sales to fund transnational shipments.
SEE ALSO: Coverage of Argentina
Several of Gato Seco's high-level contacts fled to Argentina before they were captured. Alvarez Meyendorff, an alleged former Norte del Valle Cartel member and the financial operator of a criminal network that included El Loco Barrera and Don Lucho, was captured in Buenos Aires in 2011, a year after Don Lucho was arrested in the same city. Mi Sangre, who was once a major figure in both Medellin's Oficina de Envigado and the Urabeños, was detained in Argentina in 2012. El Loco Barrera's ex-wife was captured in Argentina the same year.