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Arrest of money launderer 'Dolly' in Colombia is minimal blow to Sinaloa drug cartel

The arrest of the Colombian woman, accused of laundering money for the Mexican drug cartel, will do little to hamper a group that operates in as many as 50 countries, including the US.

By Geoffrey RamseyGuest blogger / August 12, 2011

Dolly Cifuentes Villa is escorted by police as she is presented to the media in Bogota August 10, 2011. Ms. Cifuentes is accused of laundering money for the Sinaloa de Mexico cartel led by Joaquin Chapo Guzman, according to the police.

Police handout/Reuters

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Police have arrested a Colombian woman accused of laundering money for the Sinaloa Cartel, shedding light on how the powerful Mexican gang tries to disguise the origins of their illicit funds with help from Colombian operatives.

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On Wednesday, Colombian police announced the arrest of Dolly Cifuentes Villa, alias “La Meno,” who they claimed is a close associate of Mexico’s most wanted drug trafficker, Joaquin Guzman, alias “El Chapo.” As El Pais reports, Ms. Cifuentes managed 32 business in Colombia and 17 outside the country, which she used to launder money for Mr. Guzman’s Sinaloa Cartel.

According to police, Cifuentes and her relatives inherited the money laundering business from her brother Francisco, who was killed in 2007. Francisco was at one point the personal pilot of legendary drug kingpin Pablo Escobar, but spent much of the past decade building up his own criminal enterprise. When he died, Dolly – along with brothers Jorge Milton and Hildebrando Alexander – took over his business, ramping up their money laundering activities. AFP claims that the family has also smuggled around 30 tons of cocaine into the US for the Sinaloans over the past three years, citing data from the US Drug Enforcement Agency.

IN PICTURES: Mexico's drug war

Eventually, this began to attract the attention of authorities, and in February US, Mexican, and Colombian drug officials announced they had begun an international manhunt for the three siblings, which they termed “Operation Mercury.” The operation succeeded in locating the financial assets of the Cifuentes siblings and placing them on the US Treasury Department’s Kingpin List of individuals that have ties to drug trafficking.

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