The US Treasury has added five associates of Mexico drug boss "El Azul" to its "Kingpin List," maintaining recent pressure on the Sinaloa Cartel after years of persistent rumors of the authorities giving "El Chapo" Guzman's organization an easy ride.
The individuals listed all own or run businesses on behalf of Sinaloa Cartel leader Juan Jose Esparragoza Moreno, alias "El Azul," according to the Treasury. The five stand accused of managing seven gas stations that were previously identified as front operations for El Azul. After the gas stations were identified and blacklisted in July 2012, they were renamed to skirt sanctions, but have now been added to the list under the new names. (see the Treasury Department’s organizational chart below, or download full chart as attachment at the bottom).
The listing freezes any assets the five have in the United States and bars US citizens from doing business with them. It comes after the OFAC added eight "plaza bosses" accused of overseeing Sinaloa Cartel operations in Mexican towns near the Arizona border to the list last month.
SEE ALSO: Profile of "El Azul"
InSight Crime Analysis
This is the latest effort in the OFAC’s campaign against El Azul, which began with the July 2012 designations and has since seen various businesses and individuals blacklisted.
A leading figure in the Sinaloa Cartel, El Azul has built up an extensive business portfolio in the Pacific coastal states of Sinaloa and Jalisco, including real estate, a shopping mall and an industrial park, much of which is held in the name of family members or associates.
US authorities have increasingly targeted proxy owners and family members linked to the Sinaloa Cartel who front legitimate businesses used to launder illicit profits, with El Azul's wife added to the Kingpin List as part of the July 2012 designations, after Guzman’s sons were added earlier that year.
The pursuit of the Sinaloa Cartel's financial operations by the Treasury helps the US authorities rebut the recurring rumors that they have allowed the cartel to operate freely in order to focus on their more violent rivals, such as the Zetas. These accusations, which have also been levelled at the Mexican government, have surfaced in news reports, testimonies of drug traffickers and in documents leaked from security analysts Stratfor that cite an anonymous Mexican diplomat, but have always been strenuously denied and never proven.