Officials in Peru have said the two companies whose shipments of coal were found to contain tons of cocaine earlier this week were set up as fronts by Mexican drug traffickers, a modus operandi that suggests the involvement of the Sinaloa Cartel.
Peruvian authorities are still counting the quantity of cocaine hidden amongst coal shipments seized on August 25 -- finding six tons so far -- but have already taken action against the export companies involved, arresting the directors of both companies.
According to Interior Minister Daniel Urresti, the two coal companies, which were both founded in the last three years, were legally constituted companies but were set up as a front for the cocaine trafficking of a Mexican cartel, reported La Republica.
The companies had already sent 30 shipments to Spain and Belgium, but according to Urresti, authorities have yet to determine how many of the shipments contained drugs since they believe the criminal group's strategy was to send legal shipments to Europe at the beginning of their operations to build credibility, reported AP.
Anti-drug police have so far searched 14 companies and houses in conjunction with the investigation, reported La Republica. The investigation has also revealed that some of the properties belonged to a political figure from the province of La Libertad, where the drugs were found.
InSight Crime Analysis
Although Peruvian authorities have yet to name the Mexican drug cartel they say is responsible for the shipment, the creation of two legal front companies to ship large quantities of cocaine points to the involvement of the Sinaloa Cartel.
The organization used a similar tactic to transport a massive 20-ton cocaine shipment in 2007, sending two members to Panama to create a legal shipping company and buy a cargo vessel to traffic the drugs. For the first two months, the company sent legal shipments from Guyana through the Panama Canal and on to Mexico to give the business a facade of legitimacy.
In addition, the Sinaloa Cartel has reportedly used front companies to purchase and ship heroin from Afghanistan to the United States, working with Turkish and Indian criminal organizations to set up the operations.
SEE ALSO: Sinaloa Cartel Profile
The geographical location of the port used for the most recent trafficking scheme also indicates Sinaloa Cartel involvement. According to Peruvian authorities, the shipment was destined for the ports of Callao, near Lima, and Paita, in Piura. As far back as 2011, Peruvian authorities warned of a Sinaloa Cartel presence in Piura, a transshipment point near the border with Ecuador.