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.
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With Cifuentes in custody, it can only be assumed that authorities are closing in on her two brothers. But although authorities are insinuating that the arrest is a major blow to the Sinaloa Cartel’s money laundering activities, this seems rather unlikely. Not only are the Sinaloans the most powerful drug trafficking organization in Mexico, some believe that they carry out operations in as many as 50 countries. In addition to the Americas, they operate in Europe, Northern Africa, and even Southeast Asia. Their wide reach gives them ample opportunity to launder their illicit profits.Skip to next paragraph
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But the Sinaloa Cartel does not have to look too far to hide its drug money. Like the country’s other drug trafficking organizations, it has used US banks to launder money on more than one occasion, and may even do so systematically. In fact, Mexico's drug trafficking gangs may launder up to $36 billion through its northern neighbor each year, according to some scholars. In March 2010, the US federal government sued Wachovia for not applying regulations to $378.4 billion dollars’ worth of transfers from Sinaloa Cartel agents, who deposited the money through a network of currency exchange agencies between 2004 and 2007. As the Guardian notes, the figure is worth a third of Mexico’s annual gross domestic product.
While the arrest of Cifuentes does not spell the downfall of the Sinaloa Cartel's money laundering activities, it is indicative of a broader trend in criminal activity in the hemisphere. Just 20 years ago, Colombian cartels were the heavy hitters in the drug trade, and Mexicans were simply paid to transport the drug. The fact that Mexican cartels like the Sinaloans are now using Colombians to launder their money shows how the Mexicans have worked their way up to top of the narcotics industry in a relatively short amount of time.
--- Geoffrey Ramsey is a writer for Insight – Organized Crime in the Americas, which provides research, analysis, and investigation of the criminal world throughout the region. Find all of his research here.
IN PICTURES: Mexico's drug war