Colombia has seized an estimated $15 million in holdings belonging to a Sinaloa Cartel associate who authorities claim is closely linked to Joaquin 'El Chapo' Guzman, in an illustration of the Mexican group’s ties in the South American country.
On April 26, Colombian police announced that they had seized a total of 58 assets belonging to Pedro Antonio Bermudez Suaza, including 36 residences, 15 businesses, and 6 luxury cars. The assets were spread across the cities of Bogota, Cali and Medellin, as well as seven municipalities in the central Antioquia department.
Bermudez, a Colombian citizen, is described by officials as a “point man” for Guzman. He was arrested in 2008 and extradited to the United States in 2010, where he is allegedly cooperating with the authorities in their efforts against the Sinaloa Cartel. The operation was carried out by Colombian authorities in conjunction with the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), and Bermudez is thought to have provided information that allowed them to locate the assets.
According to Colombian police official Jose Roberto Leon Riaño, the seizure was the second phase of a larger operation targeting Bermudez’s drug trafficking network.
InSight Crime Analysis
The Sinaloa Cartel has long been known to have close contacts in Colombia, and has recently been expanding its operations in the South American country. The cartel is thought to have a strong relationship with the Rastrojos, a neo-paramilitary group which operates in a third of Colombia’s 32 departments.
This is not Colombia's largest seizure of assets linked to the Sinaloa Cartel. In September, Colombian police seized $250 million in assets belonging to a money laundering ring working for Guzman.
If Bermudez is indeed working with authorities, it could be a sign that Guzman's Colombian contacts no longer see him as an untouchable figure. This would fit with the recent claims of the Mexican government, which has stated that Guzman's days of freedom are numbered.