The US Treasury has added one commercial entity and three individuals to the “Kingpin List” for their links to Sinaloa Cartel head Juan Jose Esparragoza Moreno, alias “El Azul,” part of a targeted campaign against his business network.
On December 12, the US Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced the addition of the three people charged with running El Azul's legal business ventures to the blacklist. It also placed a Sinaloa-based real estate company on the list. This freezes any assets the suspects have in the United States, and bars US citizens from doing business with them.
OFAC first began its campaign against El Azul’s network of associates in July, when it placed nine businesses and 10 people on its Kingpin List, including his ex-wife and various other family members (see the Treasury Department's diagram of the network).
InSight Crime Analysis
OFAC's pursuit of El Azul appears to be part of a wider strategy by US law enforcement aimed at isolating the Sinaloa Cartel's leadership. In April, Jesus “El Rey” Zambada Garcia, brother of Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada Garcia and a top Sinaloa operator, was extradited to the US. Also in April, the US Federal Bureau of Investigation issued its latest indictment of the upper ranks of the Sinaloa Cartel, including Joaquin Guzman, alias “El Chapo.” The following month, the Treasury added two of El Chapo's sons to the Kingpin List.
Despite these measures, Sinaloa Cartel leaders like El Chapo and El Azul have proven difficult to capture. Both saw close calls with law enforcement this year, but managed to stay one step ahead and avoid police raids.
Still, OFAC's efforts against El Azul's business networks are not without merit. The Sinaloa Cartel is known for its use of front companies in order to launder money, and have been proven able to move some of its illicit profits to banks in the United States.